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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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13 May 2019

More bandaid solutions to complex problems are on the way.

According to this report, the NZ government feels as if it's on a roll with firearms legislation and the imposition of further restrictions on and regulation of, responsible gun owners.

The report states that "The government is considering a second round of reform to further strengthen the rules around gun ownership... a gun register, which would link gun serial numbers to firearms licenses, would be taken to cabinet by the end of June".

Seriously?

Are our politicians so very thick that they can't learn from the Canadian experience in respect to individual firearm registration?

From the Canadian politicians at the time: "Registration will reduce crime and better equip the police to deal with crime in Canadian society by providing them with information they often need to do their job … Registration will assist us to deal with the scourge of domestic violence … Suicides and accidents provide another example … If a firearm is not readily available, lives can be saved. If registration, as the police believe, will encourage owners to store firearms safely so those impulsive acts are less likely"

Sounds reasonable doesn't it?

Unfortunately, that's not what happened at all.

The law requiring all firearms to be individually registered was passed into effect in Canada in 1998 and although the original budget for creating and running the registration system was a mere $2 million, within a very short space of time, the costs associated with this initiative had risen to over $600 million.

Then there was the issue of effectiveness.

According to police statistics, only 13% of the firearms used in crime had actually been registered with the database. Although some of the weapons used had been stolen from legal owners and were contained within the registry, the vast majority had never been registered at all.

Eventually, after a huge expenditure of money that had little or no effect on the levels of violent crime involving firearms, the Canadian government abolished its registry in 2011.

Now all of this is very well documented and there are a lot of simple lessons to be learned from the fiasco that was gun registration in Canada -- but likely that won't stop our politicians from exploiting any opportunity to curry more anti-gun hysteria and use that to further increase the burden faced by responsible, law-abiding Kiwis who own firearms. Remember, as was shown in Canada, the criminal element will be completely unaffected by such a registry because they won't be registering their guns at all.

There are many parallels between this registry and the increasing world-wide trend towards the compulsory registration of drones. Only the responsible, law-abiding users will be penalised (financially) and affected -- for the "bad actors" it will be business as usual.

But in respect to drones, it gets worse!

On One News this weekend, the Transport Minister announced that the government was going to be making changes to the law to hold drone operators more accountable for their actions and to give authorities new powers to deal with the issue of drones near airports. Consultation on these changes ends in July, we were told.

This had me scratching my head -- because I'm usually right up to speed on any proposed changes to drone rules/regs and I'd heard nothing of such a consultation.

Eventually the full story was uncovered and I found that these subtle (but important) changes were buried in the new Civil Aviation Bill currently open for consultation. The changes involve minor alterations to the term "pilot in command" so as to also include the operator of a drone, and the proposal to give authorities a right to "bring down" a drone if it is deemed to be a threat to person or property.

I see nothing to really complain about with these moves... but I am still very strongly opposed to the government's push to require all recreational drones and model aircraft to be registered.

Interestingly enough, I think the government may have forgotten something with these moves in respect to the new Civil Aviation Bill. There is an assumption on the part of the CAA that they'll be able to use RF jamming equipment to disable or bring down drones under the new bill. The reality is that I suspect the Radio Spectrum Management division of MBIE might have something to say about that :-)

It's worth noting that CAA's position (via the deputy Director) on drone registration is (to paraphrase) "but everyone else is doing it so we should too". In response to this I would say that if we are simply going to follow in the footsteps of other regulators such as the FAA and CASA then why not sack the deputy Director and outsource his job to one of those regulatory bodies. It will save taxpayers money and reduce the drain on the nation's tea, coffee and biscuit stores.

What do readers think? Are we seeing more knee-jerk reactions from a government that has little concern for the rights and freedoms of its people and which is so dense as to not learn from the mistakes of other countries?

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