Terror in Chch

Buyback details unclear as bill heads to Parliament

The Government has tabled legislation to tighten New Zealand’s gun laws, starting a rapid legislative process that is expected to be wrapped up by April 12.

Firearms owners will then have until September 30 to hand back illegal weapons, or face penalties of up to 10 years' imprisonment, depending on the nature of the offence.

Buyback details still being worked out

The Government offered no further information on the all-important buyback of newly-illegal firearms. Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said firearms owners would be treated “fairly” under the buyback.

This will be costly. The lack of information on how many guns will be caught up in the ban means current estimates are between $100 and $200 million.

Peters today conceded the cost “could not be met within baselines”, Peters said.

“The reality is this is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. 

He would not say where the money would come from.

“If it’s going to cost more we’re going to have to make savings somewhere else or money from increased revenue,” he said.

The latest data from police suggests just 211 weapons had been handed in since 3pm on March 15. 

House moving fast 

The legislation comes in response to the March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch, which was carried out using semi-automatic weapons.

Every type of semi-automatic weapon used in the attack will be banned. There will be limited exemptions for .22 calibre firearms with magazines that hold no more than ten rounds, as well as semi-automatic and pump action shotguns with non-detachable magazines holding no more than five rounds. Certain professionals will also be exempt from the legislation.

Other details, including what types of ammunition will be banned, will be made using Order in Council, meaning they will not require separate legislation. 

The Government wants to move fast in response to the March 15 attacks. It would like to have the legislation passed and in force by April 12, which will require Parliament to move faster than usual. 

On Tuesday the Government will seek leave of the House to go into extended sitting, giving the house extra time to pass the bill. Seeking leave requires all Parliament’s MPs to agree to the motion unanimously.

As leader of the House, Chris Hipkins is charged with organising the Government’s legislative timetable. A spokesperson for Hipkins said the parties of Government had agreed with the National Party to support the motion for extended sitting. 

This leaves just ACT leader David Seymour, and independent MP Jami-Lee Ross with the ability to block Hipkins’ seeking leave. Ross confirmed to Newsroom on Monday night he would not block the motion, saying he wouldn’t use procedure to block the legislation.

A spokesperson for David Seymour said he had not yet decided on whether he would support leave. 

Peters put implicit pressure on Seymour on Monday.

“We will require the agreement of all the house and there is the possibility that someone might hold out and at that point in time, we will have to respond to such an obstruction,” Peters said.

Should this fail, the Government has another card up its sleeve. A Minister will be able to table a motion to put the house into urgency, which can pass with a simple majority. 

These tactics are used by the Government to speed up New Zealand’s already swift legislative process. For example, a bill usually has to wait two days after being tabled before being read a first time, meaning this bill would be unlikely to be read before Thursday under normal rules.  

Instead, the Arms Amendment Bill will be read for a first time shortly after question time finishes at 3pm on Tuesday. Under urgency or extended hours, the house will resume sitting at 9am on Wednesday morning, instead of at 2pm, which is the norm.

The Bill will go the to Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, which will report to Parliament by next week. Parliament will go straight to considering the committee's report. 

This means the bill will have Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week to pass through the remaining stages before being signed into law before the Government’s self-imposed deadline of April 12, when it has said it would like the law to come into force. 

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