Kiwis Protest New Zealand's Gun 'Buy-Back' Scheme: 'The Government Kept Saying They Weren’t Going to Rip Us Off'

New Zealand’s gun “buy-back” scheme for prohibited firearms has been facing some problems.

Following the Christchurch mosque shootings where 51 individuals were killed by an Australian man using semi-automatic rifles and shotguns on March 15, 2019, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern amended the country’s gun laws in April to ban most military-style semi-automatics, magazines that hold more than five rounds of ammunition, and gun parts, such as special sights and silencers.

In June 2019, Prime Minister Ardern set aside more than $208 million New Zealand dollars to compensate owners, for up to 95 percent of the original cost, of newly banned firearms in a gun “buy-back” scheme. The deadline for the “buy-back” scheme is set for December 20, 2019.

Illegal firearms that have been owned without a valid firearms license are not given any compensation.

Police estimated that only around 500 prohibited weapons have been handed in and around 3000 firearms have been marked for collection without compensation.

Police also approximated that at least 14,300 military-style semi-automatics have been covered by previously passed legislation.

More than 250 collection events, the first taking place next week, are expected to occur in the next three months for people to hand in their firearms which were made illegal.

Although not all firearms are prohibited by the legislation in 2019, authorities have still written to every registered firearm owner to inform them of their obligations.

Despite these efforts to collect military-style semi-automatics and gun parts, there is pushback from Kiwis, causing complications for the gun “buy-back” scheme.

The Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO) is gathering funds currently to mount a legal challenge against the government, although the Kiwi Party failed to effectively challenge the new gun laws in the High Court.

Some members of the 40,000-member COLFO have already told the Council that they will refuse to hand in their now-illegal firearms. Affiliates of COLFO have also underlined that the gun “buy-back” is extremely unfair.

Noting that the government is failing to pay a proper value for the firearms being returned, council spokeswoman Nicole McKee stated, “The Government kept saying they weren’t going to rip us off. They said they would pay full value. They’re not and 250,000 [firearms license holders] are starting to feel ripped off.”

Nevertheless, COLFO is encouraging its members to comply with the law.

Other Kiwis, such as David Craze Sr., have described the gun “buy-back” as “property confiscation,” while Paul Clark, owner of New Zealand Ammunition, stated that “the only alternative is revolution” if they are not allowed to make their case through the judicial system.

Clark did clarify, however, that he was not calling for violence with that comment.

The government is also only aware of roughly 13,500 recorded licenses for military-style semi-automatics, indicating that the number could be much higher.

Police Deputy Police Commissioner Michael Clement indicates that there could be “tens of thousands” of unaccounted prohibited firearms, which could lead to a black market. In addition, thousands of New Zealand citizens could be left without military-style semi-automatics, whereas criminals and gang members do have them.

The New Zealand government is expected to continue with stricter gun laws to include “a mandatory gun register, records of all ammunition sales, and requiring owners of those semiautomatics that remain legal to permanently disable their guns.”

As New Zealand pushes forward with gun reform, it will no doubt face resistance among its citizens and we will likely witness the difficult and flawed process by which gun “buy-backs” and other forms of gun reform work.