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Firearms bill 'to make criminals immediately out of 250k people', gun group argues

The New Zealand Government has been met with praise after acting swiftly to strengthen the country's gun laws following the March 15 Christchurch terrorist attack.

The Arms Amendment Bill will have its first reading in Parliament today, and the public will have one week to submit on the issue. But many firearm owners are unhappy with the speed of the change, according to a prominent pro-gun group. 

"What came out yesterday is a hugely unfair, unjust, wide-sweeping piece of legislation that is going to make criminals immediately out of 250,000 people," Nicole McKee of the Council of Licenced Firearm Owners (CLFO) told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

Under the new legislation, all military style semi-automatic weapons, such as those used in the Christchurch mosques shooting, will be banned.

Gun owners will be given amnesty to hand in illegal firearms and accessories by September, with a transition period and buybacks planned to mitigate the speed of the law change's impact.

Anyone failing to comply with the law changes could face up to 10 years in prison.

Ms McKee said that the transition period and buy back scheme to mitigate the effects of the transition period were lacking.

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A buyback scheme will be put in place for people who own the now banned guns. Source: 1 NEWS

"In the first instance, there is no detail around compensation or buyback," she said.

"The Prime Minister did say that she would look at international sporting as being one of the exemptions for use, and that's been left out as well, so until we have detail around buyback and compensation, we cannot trust that that’s actually going to occur."

Ms McKee said what "went wrong" was that the alleged gunman was able to obtain a firearms licence, which he then used to legally purchase and modify a more easily-accessed firearm into one which is typically under tighter control.

"We actually think that there is too wide a sweeping generalisation in the legislation that's been put forward to us, and the effect of it is there's going to be 250,000 criminals made when this goes through.

"The current wording of the legislation that came out yesterday said that anybody in possession of a sight for a firearm, a butt, is going to have a prohibited part. Every firearm has a sight on it, so we’ll all be made criminals if this goes through in its current form."

She said members of the public should be able to own military style semi-automatic weapons if they "met the criteria for safety", but added that many law-abiding gun owners would be unaware of the law changes slated to go through Parliament.

"I also believe that it should be a discussion that’s had with the firearms community and that democratic process is not going to go through in a timely manner," she said. 

"We've got a lot of people out in the country at the moment, in the rural [areas]. We have farmers that don't have access to internet - we do not have a week to reply, basically until Friday, and we have a whole stack of people who will not even know that this piece of legislation is actually on the table today, let alone know it next week, so the whole process has just been rushed far too fast. There's unintended consequences as a result of it, it's unfair, it's unjust on 250,000 law-abiding people."

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The Council of Licensed Firearm Owners’ Nicole McKee discussed why many legal firearm owners are unhappy with the speed of the change. Source: Breakfast