The National Party is throwing its support behind changes to gun laws, but says they don’t regret rejecting a raft of recommendations aimed restricting firearms access when they had the chance in 2017.
Meanwhile, former police minister Judith Collins is the only National MP outright supporting a ban on semi-automatic weapons for civilian purposes.
Following the Christchurch terror attack on Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to change gun laws. The changes are expected to include a ban on semi-automatic weapons, and a buy-back scheme as well as a potential firearms register.
On Monday, Ardern said Cabinet had made “in-principle decisions” on what changes to gun laws would look like, and said there was support from New Zealand First and the Green Party.
National has said it supports changes to gun laws, and would work with the Government.
Leader Simon Bridges said National “wants to play a very constructive role” in the discussion and changes, but would not say if he supported any specific changes, but in relation to a ban on semi-automatic weapons, he said “it would be remarkable to justify any other position”.
Deputy leader, and former police minister, Paula Bennett said she did not have a personal view on whether semi-automatic weapons should be banned, saying she would wait to see what was proposed, then take a position as a caucus.
But former police minister Judith Collins was clear in her stance that there needed to be a ban on semi-automatic weapons for civilian purposes.
Collins was known as a tough police minister. She also passed legislation in 2012 which banned pistol-type grips on semi-automatics, which would allow people to ‘shoot from the hip’. One of Collins’ most well-known photos is of her shooting a gun.
When asked about National’s previous resistance to cracking down on firearms, Bridges said, “we can run through all of these things, that was then. Everything changed on Friday”.
Police spokesman Chris Bishop mirrored those comments, saying the public mood had shifted following the events on Friday.
“Every Parliament has had the opportunity to significantly tighten gun laws in the past, we have not done that,” he said.
“But as the Prime Minister has said and as Simon has said, the world changed on Friday, and Parliament needs to change with it.”
When asked whether National regretted not doing more to restrict the availability of potentially dangerous firearms, he said: “What’s done is done. The world has changed”.
Bennett, who rejected recommendations to place tighter categorisations on semi-automatics and possessing ammunition, said “there’s no point in having hindsight, it’s a great thing, but that was that time. We’re in unprecedented times now”.
When asked whether she regretted the decision, she said it was more important to look forward, and refused to answer a question on whether she would reject the same recommendations if they were in front of her today.
Talking about New Zealand’s vocal gun lobby, Bennett said she had not noticed them holding a disproportionate amount of power when it came to firearms legislation.
“It’s not something that has swayed previous decisions for me. I know everyone thinks it does.
“But at the end of the day, we have a range of New Zealanders, we’re a unique country, and we need to make sure that we’re reflecting that,” Bennett said.