Feb. 1 marked the beginning of New Zealand’s Amnesty and Buyback 2021. Kiwi gun owners have once again been forced to file into police stations like criminals to hand over firearms that they lawfully purchased. The mandatory gun turn-in marked the second time in as many years that the New Zealand government has confiscated firearms from its citizens. These repeated attacks on law-abiding gun owners serve as a powerful example of anti-gun advocates’ insatiable quest for control.
New Zealand’s incessant assault on gun owners began in March 2019, following a high-profile shooting in Christchurch. On March 21, Labour Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unilaterally prohibited the sale of semi-automatic center-fire guns with detachable magazines. Even before the legislation was enacted, Police Minister Stuart Nash warned, “police are gearing up to enable these weapons to be taken out of circulation.”
Ardern’s autocratic behavior earned praise from U.S. gun-control advocates. Twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cheered on Twitter, “Under @jacindaardern’s leadership, New Zealand has banned assault rifles and military-style semi-automatic weapons just six days after the Christchurch mosque attacks. Public servants didn’t stop at offering thoughts and prayers. They chose to act.” An enthused Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) remarked, “See. It’s not that hard.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said of Ardern’s actions, “This is what leadership looks like.”
The New Zealand Parliament went on to ratify Ardern’s actions on April 10, 2019 with the Arms Amendment Act 2019. The legislation prohibited the possession of semi-automatic center-fire rifles and their corresponding magazines. The act also prohibited pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns with internal magazines capable of accepting more than five rounds and all semi-automatic shotguns capable of accepting a detachable magazine. Further, the measure provided for the first mandatory firearm “buyback” scheme, which ran until Dec. 20, 2019.
The mandatory “buyback” managed to capture roughly 60,000 firearms. However, the total fell well short of estimates. New Zealand gun-rights group Council of Licensed Firearms Owners estimated that 170,000 prohibited firearms remained in the possession of New Zealanders after the confiscation period.
Even before the end of the turn-in, New Zealand’s anti-gun politicians were planning further gun control. In September 2019, Ardern declared that “owning a firearm is a privilege not a right,” and made clear that her government intended to continue its attack on gun owners.
The chief concern of the gun controllers was New Zealand’s lack of firearms registration, which hindered the confiscation process. Gun Control NZ co-founder Philippa Yasbek lamented to the press, “These weapons are unlikely to be confiscated by police because they don’t know of their existence.”
On June 18, 2020, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Arms Legislation Act 2020. Ensuring that future confiscation efforts would be easier to carry out, the legislation required national firearms registration. The act also imposed a wide set of restrictions that encumber almost every aspect of gun ownership.
The legislation reduced the time period that a first-time firearms license is valid from 10 to five years. In an appalling breach of privacy, the act required police to notify firearm license holders’ physicians of their patients’ gun ownership status. Physicians will be required to report the private health information of license holders to the police. The legislation also imposed new controls on the possession and transfer of ammunition.
Moreover, the act banned new classes of firearms. It prohibited semi-automatic pistols based on certain measurement criteria and caliber. It also targeted “Centrefire pump-action rifles capable of being used with a detachable magazine, or that have a non-detachable magazines (tubular or otherwise) that are capable of holding more than 10 cartridges.” The mandatory “buyback” period for these firearms runs through the end of July.
New Zealand’s National Party has taken to calling the 2021 confiscation campaign “gun buyback 2.0.” National Party Police Spokesman Simeon Brown stated, “The first gun buyback was merely a marketing exercise. After spending $103 million on the scheme, the Government couldn’t even confirm whether it had made New Zealand safer or if it had collected all prohibited firearms.”
New Zealand’s experience offers an important lesson for American gun owners.
In a knee-jerk reaction, the New Zealand Parliament passed Ardern’s initial raft of gun control by a margin of 119-1. The June 2020 gun-control legislation passed by a much narrower 63-50.
No doubt there are some lawmakers and gun owners who now wish they had more forcefully opposed Ardern’s first wave of gun control now that her government’s assault on gun owners has proven to be unending. If enough New Zealanders had pushed back, further attempts at gun control may have proven politically infeasible.
This is why U.S. gun owners must strenuously oppose any and all attacks on our rights. Just as in New Zealand, our opponents will not stop short of total civilian disarmament.