Noncompliance Kneecaps New Zealand's Gun Control Scheme
Officials should have seen it coming. Once again, inflicting knee-jerk, authoritarian restrictions on innocent people proves to be an ineffective means of convincing people to obey. Specifically, New Zealand's government is running into stiff resistance to new gun rules from firearms owners who are slow to surrender now-prohibited weapons and will probably never turn them in.
As of last week, only around 700 weapons had been turned over. There are an estimated 1.5 million guns—with an unknown number subject to the new prohibition on semiautomatic firearms—in the country overall.
Traditionally relaxed in its approach to firearms regulation, and enjoying a low crime rate, New Zealand has no firearms registration rule. That means authorities have no easy way of knowing what guns are in circulation or who owns them.
"These weapons are unlikely to be confiscated by police because they don't know of their existence," Philippa Yasbek of Gun Control NZ admitted. "These will become black-market weapons if their owners choose not to comply with the law and become criminals instead."
Yasbek's organization advocates registering all guns in private hands. But that won't help with gathering guns already in the possession of owners appalled by the government's attack on the rights of innocent people—government attacks, it's worth noting, that come in response to the crimes of one man who explicitly anticipated just such a response.
"I chose firearms for the affect it would have on social discourse," the killer wrote in a document he released to explain his crimes. "The gun owners of New Zealand are a beaten, miserable bunch of baby boomers, who have long since given up the fight. When was the last time they won increased rights? Their loss was inevitable. I just accelerated things a bit."
Politicians fulfilled the murderer's predictions with panic-driven legislation. If New Zealand's political class had looked to the history of gun control efforts they would have seen that they were walking a well-trodden path that leads to a dead end. But then again, if they had enough foresight to know that ill-considered restrictions on personal liberty are usually counterproductive and often breed rebellion, they probably wouldn't have gone into government.
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