Military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs)
In recent years there has been concern about the availability of military style semi-automatic firearms. These are often the weapons used in mass shootings and the ones most people rightly or wrongly tend to associate with violent crime.
Prospective owners must go through a special Police vetting process to determine their suitability to own an MSSA before they are issued with a restrictive E endorsement on their general firearms licence. Unlawful possession of these models is a serious criminal offence, with penalties up to three years imprisonment and a fine of $4000 plus almost certain forfeiture of the firearm. They are also subject to stringent regulations regarding storage and use.
MSSAs are used safely and responsibly in organised shooting competitions by such organisations as the Service Rifle Association and the International Military Arms Society, and by professional hunters employed to control the increasing numbers of deer, goats, and rabbits which damage the environment. They are also used by recreational hunters.
Civilian use of military rifles in target shooting competition has existed in New Zealand for more than a century and has a proud history and a remarkable safety record. Since 1900 there have been no fatal accidents on approved sport shooting ranges in New Zealand.
Membership of these clubs and organisations is strictly controlled. A probation period must first be served before full membership is awarded and measures are in place to regulate the behaviour and conduct of members.
Clubs also have a policy of informing the Police of any concerns they hold about the fitness of a member to hold firearms and whenever an individual’s membership is refused or terminated.
Most service rifle competitors have a genuine historic knowledge of their firearms and many are also bona fide collectors.
COLFO considers the current licensing requirements for military style semi-automatic firearms meets both the needs of society and firearms owners. The legislation has proved successful in regulating the ownership, use and safe storage of such firearms.
COLFO also believes that MSSAs should be transferable between E endorsement holders and those with a C category endorsement. This would enable bona fide collectors and museums the opportunity to retain or purchase them.
The tragedies that involve mass murder using firearms are normally followed by emotive calls for tighter gun control as people look for a quick fix to feel more secure. It is a fact that those who are diagnosed as mentally ill have little or no respect for any laws let alone firearm laws.
COLFO considers legislating to further restrict firearms possession among law abiding and licensed owners will have no effect on the incidents of violence involving firearms. This has been proven by overseas experience.