A police officer demonstrates illegal gun modifications. (Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey)
A police officer demonstrates illegal gun modifications. (Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey)

The BulletinApril 11, 2019

The Bulletin: Gun clubs, gun laws change after Christchurch attack

A police officer demonstrates illegal gun modifications. (Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey)
A police officer demonstrates illegal gun modifications. (Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Gun clubs, gun laws change after Christchurch attack, protests promised against new oil drilling, and widespread construction employment law breaches revealed.

In less than a month since the Christchurch mosque shooting, sweeping changes have come to both gun laws, and the gun community generally. The new law banning military style semi-automatics passed through parliament last night, with Radio NZ reporting it was backed almost unanimously. If approved by the Governor General today (and there is no reason to think it won’t be) it will be law by Friday. It has been the major legislative achievement of the year not just for the government, but for parliament as a whole, and reflects the significance of the attacks on society and politics.

Meanwhile, the place of gun clubs in New Zealand has come under immense scrutiny in the wake of the attacks. A decision in the Court of Appeal (unrelated to Christchurch) came in yesterday, siding against the Auckland Shooting Club in the Makarau Valley, reports Radio NZ. For context of why this matters, this piece by The Spinoff’s Don Rowe is must read. Local residents who didn’t want the club there say there has been a campaign of intimidation and harassment against them, with targeted vandalism, clearly implied threats, and neo-Nazi graffiti.

To be clear, no specific member of the club has been accused of firearm violations, nor the club at large. However, the targeted vandalism and use of intimidatory tactics from people alleged to be affiliated with the club raises serious concerns. The dispute has been running for years now. But in the context of the Christchurch attacks, where a gun-club trained, far-right extremist is alleged to have carried out the attacks using weapons similar to those used at the Auckland Shooting Club, it puts the dispute and the continued escalation in a new light.

It’s an example of the many different ways other gun clubs and enthusiasts have reacted. The Dunedin club where the alleged murderer trained (where concerns were raised about the views of some members) has completely rejected that they have any connection to white nationalist extremism. In the wake of the attack, their club closed down. Some of the members say they too have been threatened.

Others are arguing that they are being unfairly targeted, both by gun law changes and the associated stigma with what happened. Over recent days many callers into Newstalk ZB have talked about being collectors of guns which were valuable, and were never fired, but would now be illegal – having said that, many will now be able to get exemptions, as will licensed pest controllers.

Stuff reported the comments of the Wairarapa Pistol and Rifle Club president Phil Dunlop, who said that their members were perfectly respectable, and that competitive shooters were being scapegoated by association with the events in Christchurch. Victoria O’Brien from the Auckland Shooting Club also got quoted in that story, saying her club was being discriminated against by the law changes. Other gun owners say they’re more than happy to hand their semi-automatics in.

Finally, details of the buyback and amnesty scheme have been announced. Legal owners of newly banned weapons will have until September to receive compensation for handing them in, while those who have obtained them illegally will have the same amount of time to hand them in without being prosecuted. Newstalk ZB reports that the buyback puts some retailers in a tremendously difficult position, because provisions on payout caps means they might lose some stock without compensation. Some gun businesses are also likely to close as a result. For the government, it will be eye-wateringly expensive, with initial estimates of $200 million seemingly far too low. But the disappearing ability to buy such weapons may end up being one of the most enduring changes after Christchurch.

Environmental groups have reacted with fury to the news Austrian oil giant OMV might drill off the coast of Otago. The ODT reports OMV may end up drilling up to 10 wells, under existing permits. But environmental groups including Oil Free Otago, 350 Aotearoa and Greenpeace say there will be “resistance” to any rigs appearing off the coast. One point to note on it all – it rather underlines how hyperbolic some of the rhetoric around the oil and gas exploration ban got last year from both sides of the argument, given this situation appears to be basically business as usual.

In related news, school students in Auckland are considering how to continue the school strike protests that took place last month, reports Te Waha Nui. The inspiration for the form of protest originally began with Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who took to protesting outside parliament every Friday. Two of the organisers of the Auckland event say weekly protests probably aren’t likely, but every fortnight is a possibility, as they push for swifter action on climate change. They say a related goal is to make climate change education a bigger part of the school curriculum.

Four Auckland construction firms have been hit with fines for mass breaches of employment law, reports Katie Bradford for One News. Another 46 companies are being investigated as a result of spot checks, which seems like a ridiculously high number. Those companies who have been handed convictions won’t be able to hire migrant workers for at least six months, which can be a significant penalty given there’s a labour shortage in construction.

It’s all going wrong with the apple picking season in the Hawke’s Bay, reports Radio NZ. A massive shortage of workers means those that are there are reportedly being overworked, and suffering higher accident rates as a result. As well as that, some of the fruit itself is going unpicked, and rotting as a result. For those potential workers on benefits, there are also significant hurdles, and because the work itself is temporary and precarious, it’s a big risk for them to take it up.

National’s so-called ’emotional junior staffer’ has been named by Politik, and it appears the only correct word in that title is ‘staffer’. They were the one blamed by National leader Simon Bridges for deleting a petition against the UN Migration Pact from the party’s website, in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch attack. But in fact, as Politik reports, they are Brian Anderton, former ministerial press secretary and a widely respected servant of the party for six years.

The article also goes into National’s opposition to the Pact, which Politik’s Richard Harman analyses as a political ploy entirely aimed at undermining Winston Peters and NZ First. Evidently, it worked, as was shown by the attitude towards Mr Peters at a recent anti-immigration rally I reported on. In case anyone had forgotten, words against the Migration Pact were written on guns allegedly used during the Christchurch attack.

Lastly for this section, the best of wishes to Napier mayor Bill Dalton and his family. The NZ Herald reports he has been in a critical condition in hospital, after suffering a stroke on Tuesday night. Mr Dalton planned to retire as mayor at the end of this term, in October.

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If the basis on your genre is purity – what does it mean when that purity is threatened?

Right now on The Spinoff: There’s a fantastic new episode of Kaupapa on the Couch taking in the history of Māori filmmaking, past and present. Sam Brooks has an insightful and nuanced take on ‘Old Town Road’, and the purity problem in country music culture. And we’ve republished the speech of Tuari Potiki, the director of the Office of Māori Development, made at the launch of Otago University’s participation in the Give Nothing to Racism campaign.

There’s currently a significant amount of fighting going on in Libya, where war has been rumbling ever since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted. It’s a bit of a difficult one to make sense of, but this piece from Al-Jazeera does a good job of outlining who the key protagonists are, and what they are hoping to achieve. Importantly, it covers where the international and local backing for each force is coming from, which gives context to actions. Here’s an excerpt:

The timid response by the international community to [Khalifa Haftar’s] offensive on Tripoli – which was launched as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting the Libyan capital – shows that many countries consider Haftar as the solution for Libya, not just the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Haftar is also hoping to capitalise on the increasing discontent among the civilian population in western Libya. The situation inside Tripoli – as in other Libyan cities – has been steadily deteriorating. Crime, insecurity and corruption have been on the rise, while living conditions have markedly worsened as the local economy has struggled and the provision of social and health services has nearly collapsed.

The capital is divided between different militias, and the GNA is itself weak and corrupt. As nostalgia for the Gaddafi era has crept in, Haftar has tried to project himself as a military strongman who could unite the country and bring back stability and order. This self-styled image as Libya’s saviour has been promoted by a massive propaganda machine largely backed by the UAE.

New Zealand’s women’s Ice Hockey team, the Ice Fernz, have finished an international tournament with a silver medal. They were in the 2B division, and improved on their 4th place finish in that same division last time they competed. However, it wasn’t quite enough to earn promotion to 2A, with the one spot being taken by Chinese Taipei. Krystie Woodyear-Smith was awarded the ‘Best Defenseman’ title for the tournament.

Lastly, this is a particularly useful piece from Newsroom’s Suzanne McFadden about the current crop of midcourters coming through the ANZ Premiership. For those who are desperate to see the Silver Ferns regain some of their former glory, the midcourt is the key area where things need to change. Those listed in this piece are in their late teens and early 20s, but within a couple of years could be taking on the world.

From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.

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