Just when you thought Simon Bridges couldn’t sink any lower – he has.
After the March 15th Christchurch terror attack, the (current) Leader of the National Party issued strong committments to support urgently needed gun law reform;
“We will be ready and prepared to be constructive and to look at anything here because we do need to see some change.”
“Change is needed, I understand that, and the National Party will make sure it’s a constructive party in all of this. I am no expert in this. There may be loopholes that can be fixed quite readily and quickly.
Yes, that’s probably the right way to go [to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons] but let’s hear from the government. It is now for the government and the prime minister, whose roles I respect in this, to put forward those proposals. We are up for change.”
“Everything has changed. Everything has changed. Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to you we shouldn’t have gun control change. I don’t myself know what would have changed this… we had someone who had IEDs in their car.”
“National has been clear since this devastating attack that we support changes to our regime and that we will work constructively with the Government. We agree that the public doesn’t need access to military style semi-automatic weapons. National supports them being banned along with assault rifles. We also support the Government’s proposals to limit the access to other high powered semi-automatic weapons and ammunition.”
“It’s imperative in the national interest to keep New Zealanders safe. The attacks on Friday changed New Zealand, the intention of the gun law changes is excellent and I understand the need for urgency. We remain committed to ensuring the safety of New Zealanders and fighting extremism in all forms.
National will work constructively with the Government to ensure we get this right. We support the prime minister and I think most of our rural communities will understand.”
The above statements from Mr Bridges were also posted on the National Party website. So there is simply no room for error and claims of being misquoted.
Writing on The Standard, L Prent acknowledged Simon Bridges’ constructive response to the massacre and need for thorough, wide-ranging gun-reform laws;
“Now I know that most people are going to be surprised that I finally have a reason to laud Simon Bridges (I know I am). But I just have to on this occasion. Both he and the public responses of National to the announcements yesterday were excellent.
They’re fully supporting the thrust of the proposed changes going forward into the future. As National seem to have made a career in politics of being stupid over my lifetime, I’m sure it won’t last. But I’m going to enjoy it while it does.”
And on Twitter, this blogger posted a dire warning/prediction;
Alas, neither L Prent nor I were to be disappointed.
Six months later, Simon Bridge is back tracking.
On 28 August, Mr Bridges announced he would not be supporting a second trance of gun reform laws.
“No, I’m not making this political, it’s not about the Police Association. It’s about a situation where National supported the first law, which was the right thing to do – but the buyback scheme, however, is a fiasco.
We look at this new law, and it seems like it’s aimed at law-abiding New Zealanders. It’s not aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists, where it should be.”
Whether the scheme will retrieve every single banned weapon and parts is unknown: successive governments have failed to implement registration of individual firearms. Which is bizarre, considering we, as a society, consider it normal to register cars, dogs, real estate agents, etc.
Since the initial banning of semi-automatic weapons and associated parts, and buy-back scheme (which Australia successfully carried out following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre by a deranged gunman), a second tranche of gun reform was introduced;
- Establishing a firearms register
- Make owning a gun a “privilege” that comes with obligations
- Tighten the rules to obtain and keep a gun licence
- Tighten the rules for gun dealers to get and keep a licence
- Require licences to be renewed every five years
- Not allow visitors to purchase guns in New Zealand
- Introduce a new warning system for police so they can intervene if they have concerns about a licence holder’s behaviour
- Introduce a licencing system for shooting clubs and ranges
- Set up an expert group to advise the police on firearms
- Introduce new advertising standards around guns
- Require licences to buy magazines, parts and ammunition
- Increase penalties and introduce new offences
The rules seem so straight-forward that it beggars belief they were not already in place. Bear in mind, these are lethal, high-powered weapons we are talking about – not registration of ‘Mr Bigglesworth‘, the family pet chihuahua.
By the end of August, Simon Bridges began walking-back of every statement he made following March 15th. His spin-doctor-crafted “talking points” glaringly obvious;
“We look at this new law, and it seems like it’s aimed at law-abiding New Zealanders. It’s not aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists, where it should be.”
“In short, the Government is going after the good guys and not the bad guys [with these rules].”
“There’s no politics. It’s simply a question of a next series of laws that seem to be aimed at good, law abiding people rather than criminals, the gangs and extremists.”
It is difficult to understand how the proposed new restrictions would “not [be] aimed at the gangs, the crims and the extremists“. Just to remind everyone that the (alleged) Christchurch shooter was also a licenced, “good, law abiding person” – right up until he pulled the trigger at his first victim. Then he wasn’t.
In fact, the new laws should make it harder for “gangs, the crims and the extremists” to possess firearms. Because – according to Police – most firearms ending up in the hands of “gangs, the crims and the extremists” – come from “good, law abiding people” with gun licences.
According to a NZ Herald report in 2016, by Phil Taylor, licenced gun dealers were a prime source of guns for “gangs, the crims and the extremists”;
“Most of the illegal guns we come across are from burglaries or from rogue licensed owners,” said the drug enforcement source.
Rogues such as Peter James Edwards. Edwards, who had a class A licence that enabled him to buy rifles and shotguns in a sporting configuration, made a business out of buying guns and pimping them for criminals by cutting down the barrel or stock and adding pistol grips and silencers.
Pistol-size firearms are prized by criminals because they are easily carried and concealed.
Over 18 months, Edwards, described in court as unemployed, bought 74 firearms including 69 from Gun City’s Auckland and Christchurch stores, plus more than 16,000 rounds of ammunition, a large number of parts including pump-action pistol grips, and pistol grips.
He pleaded guilty to supplying firearms to unlicensed people, supplying a pistol and supplying methamphetamine. Edwards sold methamphetamine to his daughter, starting on her 19th birthday.
He was sentenced in 2014 to a total of five years and 10 months in prison. It was revealed in court that he had 53 previous convictions in Western Australia. He had failed to declare any previous convictions on his gun licence application.
Edwards claimed not to know the names of anyone he sold to, and would not help recover 64 firearms that were missing and believed to be in the hands of Head Hunters gang members and associates.
In another example;
Another who didn’t want to help police trace the firearms he sold to criminals was John Mabey.
“He probably has a greater fear of those associated with the guns than anything we can bring to bear,” Inspector Greg Nicholls told the Herald after Mabey was sent to jail in 2009.
Mabey gained a gun licence at a young age and later added a “collectors’ endorsement” that entitled him to have restricted weapons such as pistols and submachine guns and military-style semi-automatics.
He fell into debt and decided to sell his collection on the black market. When notified that police planned to check his collection, he faked a burglary in which he claimed his entire collection of restricted firearms had been stolen. He maintained the fiction for two years before admitting he had faked the burglary.
Only 11 of 121 of Mabey’s restricted guns have been recovered. Glock and Beretta pistols were found in the possession of a drug maker and seller who had fired at police officers during a routine traffic stop.
A Browning pistol was found in the possession of a methamphetamine cook. A Luger pistol was found in the home of a Mongrel Mob member. Methamphetamine was involved again.
Because individual firearms are not registered, the number of transactions involving purchase and sales is not recorded. As the same police source pointed out;
“There is no way of identifying who is buying too many guns. There might be an innocent explanation for why someone buys firearms five times a year, but when someone buys 69 guns in a short space of time … hang on, that’s not right.”
In 2012, in a Police report – the (2011) National Strategic Assessment paper – found that “325 illegal firearms were seized in police raids in the year to June. While that is the lowest haul in the past five years, it is still an alarming number and, along with other aspects of the present firearms regime, a cause for continuing concern. Most of the guns seized by the police were stolen in residential burglaries or from collectors by organised criminals.”
Four years later, in 2016, information relating to the underground business of illegal firearms sales was sought by the the Law and Order Select Committee when Judith Collins was Police Minister. Simon Bridges was a colleague of Ms Collins in the same government. They did nothing to tighten gun control laws. Three years later, fiftyone people were shot dead in a Christchurch mosque and scores more injured.
The same 2012 Herald editorial, which revealed the findings of the (2011) National Strategic Assessment paper had warned presciently;
Parliament needs to act before the laxity of current regulations is underlined again by a tragedy involving unlicensed guns.
The (alleged) terrorist-killer was a legally licenced gun owner. His weapons – unregistered.
If Simon Bridges is now playing politics to curry favour with gun owners and conservative voters, it is a deadly ‘game’ he is indulging in. Fiftyone people paid the ultimate price because this country – and successive governments – was to naive and blase to realise the deadly nature of poorly regulated gun ownership.
Mr Bridges has plumbed new depths of dirty politics. To return to partisan politics on an issue which – literally – is a matter of life and death is troubling.
It is obvious that he has waited until the moment of the tragedy subsided. Once the screams and cries of frightened innocent men, women, and children no longer reverated through our collective consciousness; once the searing white-hot grief had dimmed; once the headlines moved on; did Mr Bridges think it was safe to conduct political business-as-usual?
If so, it demonstrates an almost sociopathic callousness that would be beyond most of us.
His win-at-any-expense strategy for next years’ election shows the true, deeply-flawed character of the man. It raises the question; what won’t he do to win votes?
And for all New Zealanders, especially National supporters, the question becomes; is this the kind of person we should trust to lead us?
A recent National Party leaflet delivered to households;
In the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll, eligible New Zealand voters were asked what they thought of the Government’s moves [on gun reform].
Sixty-one per cent thought the changes were about right, 19% thought it did not go far enough and 14% thought it went too far.
Simon Bridges should listen more carefully.
Mediaworks/Newshub: Christchurch mosque terror attack – National changes tune on gun control
Fairfax/Stuff media: National supports gun law changes in wake of Christchurch mosque shootings
National: National supports firearms reform
Fairfax/Stuff media: Scepticism and enthusiasm for new gun laws as buy-back figures approach 20,000
NZ Police: Information on prohibited firearms
Wikipedia: Port Arthur massacre (Australia)
Mediaworks/Newshub: Second tranche of gun law changes – Firearms register, tighter licencing
Mediaworks/Newshub: Simon Bridges says gun laws soft on ‘crims, gangs and extremists’
Parliament: How do criminals get illegal guns?
Bowalley Road: What Happened Here?
The Daily Blog: Gun nuts should be under surveillance now
Previous related blogposts
13 November 1990
That was then…
15 March 2019
This is now…
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