GUEST BLOG: Graeme Easte – MSSAs Are Definitely Not Playthings


The Associate Minister of Justice recently announced that military-style semi-automatic firearms (MSSAs) are soon to be made legal.  Despite them being effectively banned since the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks, Nicole McKee plans to legitemise their use for “specific types of sporting events“.  Her reasoning sounds really odd, and it is.

Combat shooting, using military-style firearms, is not a sport as most of us would understand it, despite strong efforts by McKee and other enthusiasts to make it so, preferring to call it ‘Practical Shooting’.  It is modelled on the sort of scenarios used to train elite military units such as the Special Air Service (SAS) in Britain, which New Zealand and many other countries have copied.  Competitions involve fantasy settings, with ‘bad guy’ targets to be shot and ‘hostage’ targets to be avoided.  Combat shooters are timed as they negotiate an elaborate ‘course of fire’, having to run, crawl, and climb past obstacles, while firing live rounds at humanoid targets.

The highest scores are given to ‘head shots’ and ‘heart shots’ because of their heightened lethality, with points awarded for speed of shooting and accuracy.  The weapons used are large-calibre pistols, assault rifles and riot shotguns.  This is not paintball.  These are battlefield weapons with real bullets, and the owners keep them in their homes.

Leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens there was a concerted effort to have combat shooting included as a demonstration sport.  By establishing it as an international sport, the gun lobby aimed to advance several of their most cherished goals.  Olympic status for combat shooting would create new legal arguments in favour of non-sporting firearms, new opportunities to encourage children into the gun culture, and new marketing opportunities for struggling gun makers.  However, this would actually have been contrary to the Olympic Charter, which includes the goal of “contributing to building a peaceful and better world.”   The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is required to “participate in actions to promote peace” and “dedicate its efforts to ensuring that violence is banned“.  Although some ancillary bodies did show interest, the IOC itself strongly rejected the notion as incompatible with their principles.

Despite this setback, combat shooting enthusiasts’ hobby poses a threat to gun control laws by further legitemising guns that were designed for lethality rather than for sports such as target shooting.  Combat shooting enjoys robust support from the firearms industry – both in the United States and internationally.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) has long held “that sporting events involving automatic firearms are similar to those events such as silhouette target shooting and deserve the same respect and support“.

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Some might think, well what’s the harm, it is just another hobby.  But, combat shooting can be a uniquely deadly pursuit.  Many Americans first learned about combat shooting after the horrifying March 1998 massacre of school children at the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  Two boys, aged 11 and 13, had ambushed their classmates from a wooded hillside after setting off the school’s fire alarm.  The concealed pair opened fire as the students left the building, killing four girls and a teacher, and wounding 11 other children.  Police soon found that the younger boy was the son of the founder and head of the Jonesbro Practical Shooters Association, who had begun teaching him combat shooting.  News reports noted how the ‘shoot-to-kill’ fantasy of combat shooting had apparently played out in chilling reality.  While many would be shocked by the idea of putting a real gun into the hands of a pre-teen and setting him loose in a lurid fantasy scenario, the USPSA still actively recruits children to its ranks.

Sporting use of firearms can sound vaguely plausible until people understand that “sporting use” actually means combat shooting, and that MSSAs are included.  Once aware of that then few people are likely to support the proposal.  Even if the Minister is able to get her new rules over the line, she is setting herself a major hurdle, having repeatedly insisted that holders of gun licenses are “fit and proper people“.   How does that square with the underlying principle of combat shooting which is to train and prepare to kill people.  Surely an unhealthy interest in killing should disqualify anybody from being considered “fit and proper” persons to be given access to firearms, and in particular MSSAs.


Graeme Easte is from Gunsafe: This post is based on published research by Philip Alpers (Gun Policy News, Sydney, Australia) and Josh Sugarman (Violence Policy Centre, Washington DC, USA)


  1. Everybody over the age of 18 without a criminal record should be allowed to carry a handgun and have an AR-15 after receiving proper training. We need the ability to protect our businesses, families, and friends from criminal gangs who already have guns.

    Every church with suitable facilities should be allowed to install a shooting range, so the church congregation can practice its firearm skills every Sunday morning after church!

    • No. Kiwi won’t be allowed to open/conceal carry. The author of this blog hasn’t made any distinction between teaching school children arts and craft and what makes teaching school children down right out of it. It’s the discipline. The military wants people who will obey. Soldiers are not dogs who bite at everything because of how it makes them feel they have to obey. That’s what they screen for vigorously. Civilians don’t have that imperative there fore kiwis will never get there hands on military technology.

    • You know what, despite what conservatives say is the cause of gun deaths, the only basic difference between us and the US is that we at least try to stop nutcases getting guns. Not always successfully obviously, but the US doesn’t in the main. And I’d like to keep it that way.

  2. Thanks Graeme, this is just another example of a society where people want their “rights” but refuse to accept any responsibility. I suspect that it is a tail-wagging-the-dog call as I have not found any widespread call for MSSA firearms among people that I know.

  3. To paraphrase some American ” You don’t fuck with an armed population.” So based on that particular piece of wisdom I’m not surprised that the tumorous neo-liberal natzo, actzo, nu zillind firstzo are about to flood the market with all manner of ballistic penis extenders. They’re probably hoping that we all kill each other rather than them having to do the job themselves when the time comes. And the time is coming. Unless we, the people, and you know who they are, right? Yes, we, the people come to truly understand what’s happening in what seems like another planet which is really the rest of the planet we only see while on holiday or in movies is on fire. What would you do if your house was on fire? Stay inside and die or leap the neighbours fence then steal their car after you clean out their fridge. That, was a metaphor FYI BTW.

  4. Are we any safer with the Labour overkill gun laws .The gangs still have guns. We need to have more people introduced to guns as civil disobedience creeps up .

    • As for being introduced to guns, I think everyone should say – Hello – I really don’t wish to know you. Your simple-minded cognitive processes hold as much water as a leaky bucket. Think of something else to pour money into, rather than going round and round and never doing anything practical and right then when gone, repeat. Never achieving anything that is good and worthwhile, like trying to help with the practical cause of crime and civil disobedience!
      Government implementation irregular instructions:
      Sing a bucket song along with the Topp Twins – There’s a hole in my Bucket…

    • Great idea Trevor. Because we know a heavily armed population (USA) results in less gun deaths in aggregate. What a moron.

      • Trevor’s response simple tribal right wing dribble. His Rambo is best response to Labours very sensible gun laws speak volumes of nut jobs allowed loose on blog sites let alone in charge of a gun.

  5. In some countries politicians and leaders have been targets in special events of outbreaks of disgust and anger at their antics or proposed policies. People have taken ‘potshots’, and also the Army and Polizia have been trained in the use of weapons; having nasty rotten guns revolving in the public sphere will not be our Government curbing citizen behaviour in appropriate ways for the good of all.

    And politicians have to learn to curb their behaviour long enough to consider their responsibilities to us all, for which they are well paid,. WOW – standing for Words of Wisdom. Let’s stop talking about The Beehive, in a friendly accepting Kiwi way, and call it The Dome which conjures up an image of heads and the end of the word – Wis-dome!

  6. One of the defining characteristics of that “shithole country”, the USA, is its “in gun we trust” fetish. Kiwis who lap that shit up are morons.

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