Following the shooting of 4 people in Napier by an man with 18 guns and no firearms licence, 60 minutes has managed to buy a gun without a licence, very easily.
This doesn’t surprise me at all. No-one knows how many guns are actually in NZ, but estimates are generally over a million. With only around 230,000 people holding gun licences, the reality is that many of these guns are owned by unlicenced people already. When you are talking those sorts of numbers, there are bound to be a few people willing to sell to an unlicenced buyer.
In the country at least, people don’t generally get a licence to buy a gun. They get a licence to buy ammunition for the guns they already have.
But is this really as bad as some sectors of the media might imply?
New Zealand’s violent crime rate is over double that of America, with Auckland having a comparable violent crime rate to Washington. But gun crime is only a small fraction of this. Because guns aren’t the problem.
Anything is a weapon. I have been working on the farm today, and as I write this am wearing a sheath knife on my belt. That is highly lethal (I kill sheep with it), but I can buy that wherever I like with no licence at all. And if I couldn’t buy it, I could easily make one with a chunk of steel and an angle grinder.
You can kill a lot more people with a car than a gun, and you don’t even need a driver’s licence to buy a car. Or you could use an axe, a machete, a kitchen knife, a chainsaw – the average home is a formidable arsenal of lethal weapons.
But despite being well armed we don’t all go around killing people – because we aren’t all violent nutcases.
Violent crime is not about the availability of weapons. It’s about what makes people violent nutcases.
We can only solve violent crime by addressing the causes of violence: family situations, drug addictions, mental health, violence in the media, and so on. We must empower parents to actually discipline children when they are young so the police don’t have to do it later.
There is a lot we can do. But restricting a few tools won’t do a thing.