Third reading: Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill
We have travelled a long way in eight days, since the bill was read a first time.
It has been a punishing schedule for MPs and submitters and public servants who have played a role in this process.
In that time, we have walked in the shoes of a wide cross section of our communities.
Where we have been
Discussions during the eight days of debate on this bill have taken us to the sanctuary of the mosques.
They have allowed us to witness the supreme effort of trauma surgeons in a hospital emergency department.
We have caught a glimpse of family circles now with an empty chair, or two, in their household.
We know there are widows, many widows. There are children who have been to funerals of a sibling, a parent, a grandparent.
There are elderly members of our community who never got a chance to say farewell to an old friend.
As well as the victims and the bereaved, we have walked through the worlds of the gun users and dealers.
- Women have talked about their lives on farms.
- We have been taken through the landscape of a high country sheep station,
- introduced to the atmosphere on rifle ranges, and
- heard of the wildlife in the mountains and valleys frequented by recreational hunters.
The Police Association reminded us of the everyday reality for frontline cops, listening to instructions and warnings on the radio as they head to a callout, wearing body armour to enable them to walk into danger.
While Parliament has been to these worlds, many other visits have been happening outside this place.
Mr Speaker, families and friends have been tending to the fourteen people still lying in hospital beds recovering from gunshot wounds and other injuries.
That includes a five year old girl at Starship in Auckland, and her father in the hospital next door.
One patient remains in intensive care in Christchurch Hospital.
Others are at Burwood.
Mr Speaker, this legislation is just the first step of many to make our country safer.
The all-of-government response is ongoing.
What else we are doing
Police are acutely aware of how vulnerable and frightened some communities still feel after the terror attack.
They have established a special operation to reach out to these groups to provide reassurance and advice.
They are also responding to the many questions people have about safety and security.
Police have made almost two-thousand visits to schools.
They have made almost 1400 visits to places of worship. These visits are mostly, but not exclusively, to our mosques.
But I’m also aware of a visit made by Police to a Chinese Christian Church, which normally has 150 people at its Sunday service.
Many had stopped coming because of fears and false rumours about threats. Police were able to reassure this congregation.
Fourteen Police officers with specialist cultural knowledge and skills have been deployed to liaise with ethnic communities in Christchurch.
The diversity of our Police force is growing as we rollout 1800 extra officers which means that Police are increasingly drawn from the communities they serve.
They can speak the languages and know about faith and cultural practices.
Police have also made almost 150 visits to gun clubs. This is an important community for Police.
It is worth repeating the assurances given by government from the earliest days:
There are good people in all of our communities who will find themselves in possession of banned firearms, parts and magazines.
This is because we are changing the law, not because these people have done anything wrong.
The amnesty and buyback
That is why we have an amnesty and are putting in place a buyback scheme.
To date, more than three-hundred weapons have been handed over during the amnesty.
More than 1100 online forms have been completed for more weapons and parts to be handed over
There have been 1900 phone calls to the dedicated Police freephone 0800 311311
The amnesty runs to 30 September but I want to remind the House that there is provision to extend that date, by Order in Council, if necessary.
Alongside that amnesty, the buyback will now be structured within a statutory framework.
The framework will provide certainty for all participants and create a transparent system for compensation.
Police have consulted extensively with Australian officials about their experience with almost thirty amnesties and buybacks since the 1990s.
We want to take the time to get it right to avoid some of the pitfalls and legal risks encountered across the Tasman.
Next legislative steps
Mr Speaker, tonight’s third reading completes the passage of the Arms Amendment Bill.
We have begun work on an Arms Amendment No. 2 Bill, which we hope to see around June.
That bill will address some long-debated questions around a gun register, the licensing regime, the system of Police vetting, and the ‘fit and proper person’ test, storage requirements and penalties, amongst other matters.
I hope this House can again come together to work collaboratively on the next stage of reforms.
Before I conclude I want to specifically acknowledge two people.
The first is the Prime Minister.
Jacinda Ardern has given us the mandate to respond swiftly to the horror attacks of 15 March.
Opinions will vary of course, but I believe this bill is possibly the most important legacy this government will leave for future generations.
Secondly, I want to acknowledge my Ministerial Advisor Barbara, and her family, who have sacrificed much over the past 26 days.
We have asked a lot of our public servants, officials, and their families since the attacks. They have made this country a safer and better place.
Mr Speaker, to conclude, I acknowledge that in just over two weeks we will be marking ANZAC Day, and Police are busy working with RSAs and Councils to make the occasions as safe as possible.
Traditionally this day remembers those we have lost in war, the military and the civilians.
We remember those who have served our country, and who have worked to make it a safer place, where freedoms are protected.
Of course those freedoms include being free from harm and free of the fear of harm.
Those freedoms include making room for diversity, tolerance, and inclusion.
The day marks the historical ties that will forever link New Zealand, Australia, and our friends in Turkey.
It is an appropriate moment to remind the House of the words of the great Ottoman and Islamic leader, Field Marshall Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
He honoured our war dead who lie buried in Turkey with words which are reproduced on war memorials in Wellington, Canberra, and ANZAC Cove overlooking the Aegean Sea.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference to us between the Johnnies and Mehmets, where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.
Mr Speaker, we embrace those who lost their lives at the mosques.
They are us.