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Strong Opposition to Registered Guns
by Helen Bain in Wellington New Zeland

Parliament's law and order select committee is facing a deluge of submissions from thousands of gun-owners opposed to registration of firearms.

The committee has received 6500 submissions on the Firearms Amendment Bill, which would require
registration of individual firearms as well as firearm-owners. Virtually all the submissions have opposed the bill.

Committee chairwoman Janet Mackey said the number of submissions was more than she had seen on any bill in her six years in Parliament.   "Obviously people feel very strongly," Ms Mackey said.

The committee heard submissions on the bill in Auckland and Christchurch last week, and will hear further evidence in Wellington, Palmerston North, and Dunedin this week.

Its hearing at Parliament today will be in the Legislative Council Chamber because the number of people attending would not fit in a normal select committee hearing room.

Council for Licensed Firearms Owners executive director John Howat said firearms-owners were angry because the bill would do nothing to stop firearm crime.

"This won't do anything to change the way criminals operate," Mr Howat said. "It's just cracking down on
responsible people. It is a nonsense."

The council had polled police firearms officers around the country, and found they believed the proposed law would not be obeyed.

"There are large numbers of people who will not abide by the law - not that we're encouraging that,"
Mr Howat said.

Registration of individual firearms, according to a costing done by Coopers and Lybrand and obtained by the council under the Official Information Act, would cost at least $50 million. Mr Howat said the
weight of submissions against the bill were not the views of a narrow group of gun lobbyists, but
reflected the feeling of "hundreds of thousands of ordinary Kiwi firearms-owners".

Mr Howat said overseas experience showed that attempts to toughen gun laws had the effect of increasing the strength of the gun lobby.

In Australia, moves to tighten gun laws swelled the sports shooting body's numbers from 30,000 to more than 100,000 within weeks.

However, Mr Howat said New Zealand was unlikely to see the development of a powerful, highly politicised gun lobby like the United States National Rifle Association.

There, commentators have said that the gun lobby has prevented politicians from tightening gun laws, in spite of large numbers of shooting deaths, because of their political influence.

The New Zealand gun lobby was not directly involved with any political party, but believed its endorsement of ACT at the last election resulted in the party gaining several seats.

The bill was introduced by the previous National government.

Police Minister George Hawkins said the Government would probably introduce a supplementary order paper on the bill, bringing it "more in line with the Thorp report".

Besides registration of individual firearms, the Thorp report recommended a buy-back of military-style, semi-automatic weapons, and the establishment of an independent firearms authority.

Mr Hawkins said "the key" to gun laws was what the Government would do about MSSAs. A "buy-back" of the firearms would cost $18m to $21m, "and there are some things we could better spend that on", he said.

Alliance Cabinet Minister Matt Robson has said the Government would beef up the bill, introducing tough new measures this year, regardless of the inevitable backlash from the gun lobby.

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