The New Zealand Police have just announced that parts used by the Christchurch gunman are now illegal and included in the buyback. The part in question is Lower Receiver of the Armalite Rifle (AR) 15. Many firearms owners are left scratching their heads as they had previously tried to hand in Lower Receivers at buyback events and were sent home with them instead.

As if the buyback wasn’t already a shambles, completely failing to get any engagement from most licenced firearms holders, we now find that they’ve been sending parts back home with owners only to announce that those parts are actually illegal, and this really hammers home the point here: the people at the top writing legislation, interpreting legislation, and forming police policy clearly have little to knowledge about firearms and how this whole mess could have been avoided by being less rash, less egotistical and a little more rational. Instead of engaging with the firearms community and those that actually understand the issues, they’ve simply criminalized a huge swathe of law-abiding Kiwis and crossed their fingers it will achieve the desired disarmament result.

The Lower Receiver is highlighted red

Right, back to the Lower Receiver issue – if you’re not familiar with firearms or the AR platform it might be easy to think that’s its easy to classify what’s prohibited and what’s not. Well, the AR is a modular platform and a bit like Lego, with the owner being able to mix and match parts to change almost any characteristics of the rifle. You can get bolt-action Upper Receivers, which would make the rifle non-prohibited according to the new law, but then again the Police now are saying that if it contains the Lower Receiver then it’s prohibited, except that’s not how the law was written and the bolt-action rifle is not prohibited. But then what happens when you disassemble the rifle to clean it? are you breaking the law while it is in parts on the workbench?

What makes matters worse is that the Lower Receiver is actually considered by law to be the “Firearm”. It is the part that is stamped with a serial number, it is the part that gets registered, and swapping out any other parts serves only to modify the firearm, but you can’t swap out the lower receiver without it being a new firearm. How the police could be sending people home from the buyback with these is baffling and demonstrates severe incompetence from those running the clown-show. Unfortunately though, it is hardly surprising.

Ultimately the law that’s been pushed into place is internally inconsistent, and then on top of that there is the inconsistent interpretations being applied by the top brass of the Police, and it leaves firearms owners not knowing where they stand.

The best outcome for New Zealand would be to throw out the new law, throw out the politicians that wrote it and then have a sensible debate over what should be prohibited, what appropriate licencing looks like, and what approaches actually stand a chance of working.