Solve our firearms inquiry debacle in one easy step

Earlier this year there was a lot of noise generated by the Law and Order Select Committee firearms inquiry which was supposed to target how criminals get their hands on firearms. The terms of reference were as follows:

  • how widespread firearm possession is among criminals, including gangs
  • how criminals, gangs, and those who do not have a licence come into possession of firearms
  • what changes, if any, to the current situation may further restrict the flow of firearms to criminals, gangs, and those who do not have a licence

The result was a set of recommendations that would do practically nothing to address the issues above but instead focused on law abiding firearms owners. In particular allowing Police to enter premises to inspect security, mandating a permit to procure for all firearms and a registry of all firearms. There’s already been a lot written about these issues, so I won’t cover them here suffice to say that the backlash from the firearms community was pretty huge and the Police Association (Union) did even more damage to an already strained relationship between firearms owners and the Police.  

Credit must go to Paula Bennett here for engaging a couple of consultants within the community and ultimately rejecting most of the select committee recommendations. I wonder if anyone on that committee has ever owned, let alone fired a gun [rhetorical question].

However, there’s one point that seems to have been overlooked that I feel was an opportunity lost – the definition of military-style semi-automatics.

The select committee summary is “that the Police investigate the creation of a category of restricted semi-automatic firearm (rifle and shotgun) to replace the MSSA firearm endorsement category” and the recommendation “that the Police investigate the creation of a category of restricted semi-automatic firearm (rifle and shotgun) to replace the MSSA firearm endorsement category”.

Ask pretty much anyone that shoots, the definition of a MSSA is an absolute nonsense. Although most can see what the law is trying to achieve, the definition is so stupid that it generally invoke the rolling of eyes and coarse words uttered. It’s pretty ridiculous that a rifle can be A category one minute, change the magazine and an E category next minute. The MSSA definition only exists in New Zealand law – it is not used anywhere else, probably because it doesn’t make sense. There was the recent case of a Police armorer forcing 8 rounds into a shotgun to prove it was an MSSA. Since when was a shotgun considered “military style”?

I think we can all agree that the current law is an ass, so what should have been recommended?

Here’s my two cents…

First of all, bin the term MSSA, it really is just nonsensical. We can then focus on what an E category endorsement is really targeting. My starter for ten as a definition of firearms requiring a E category are:

  •  a semi-automatic rifle that uses centrefire ammunition.

There, that’s it.

I would exclude semi-automatic rimfire rifles (like the ubiquitous .22) and all shotguns – so no impact on the majority of licensed firearms owners. It would close the loophole on A Category assault rifle types and would make the definition clear and enforceable. This is clearly the intent of the existing poorly defined rules around MSSAs. Owners of semi-auto A category centrefire rifles (I am one) would need to apply for an E, which may seem excessive, but I think it’s a small amount of pain to fix a stupid law. I’d leave the rules around procurement, etc of E class weapons and I’d put a blanket magazine capacity limit of 15 on rimfire and shotgun magazines – i.e. large capacity or drum magazines would not be allowed at all for these weapons. Again, there will be some people put out (3 Gun shooters for example) but I think simplicity of the rules outweigh the negative impact. I would also remove the unnecessary rules around using an E cat (nobody but the owner can even hold the rifle) and make it more like the pistol rules (i.e. under supervision).

I’m interested to hear other peoples thoughts on this.




EWWBL’s Law: Drop the MSSA definition from the Arms Act, but require an E endorsement to own any semi-automatic rifle that uses centrefire ammunition.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.