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New Zealand Held a Gun Buyback Program. Numbers Reveal How Much of a Flop It Really Was.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File

Shortly after the terrorist attack that left 51 dead in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed to ban all semi-automatic rifles. The firearms that were used in the attack were legally obtained but illegally modified. 


The "assault weapons ban" was finalized and Friday was the last day for New Zealanders to hand over the newly banned firearms as part of a so-called "buyback program." 

The government set aside $110 million to compensate gun owners for their firearms. In total, the government collected 47,000 firearms. An accounting firm the government hired determined that the number of banned guns is estimated between 50,000 and 170,000. The exact number, however, is unknown because the country does not have a registry for what they call "military style assault rifles."

The numbers sound like a success, at least on the gun control front, right? Wrong. 

Police in New Zealand believe that there are roughly 1.2 million legally owned firearms. But that statistic is from 2014, when the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva conducted the Small Arms Survey. For all we know, it is likely higher. Based on that number though that means there are 26 firearms for every 100 people. It really is significantly less than the United States but it is higher than Australia. 

But, at last, gun control groups are already taking a victory lap. Their argument is this is only one step in a multi-pronged approach to dealing with firearms. New Zealand also plans to make licensing tougher, registration and stronger enforcement powers.

"On the one hand, taking around 50,000 of these weapons out of the community is a clearly positive step," Gun Control NZ co-founder Nik Green said. "On the other hand, we don't know what proportion of all prohibited firearms this represents. If we use the lower-bound estimates, it's a pretty good result; if we use the higher ones, it's less so."


According to the Washington Post, New Zealand is compensating gun owners based on the condition of the firearm. Some are receiving 95 percent for new or almost-new firearms. Others are receiving 25 percent for those deemed in poor condition. And, not surprisingly, some people are waiting for the government to give them more money for their firearm. 

What really is sad is New Zealand already had stringent gun control laws on the books. People who lawfully obtain their firearms must go through a rigorous process. 

Under New Zealand law, you need a license if:

If you are 16 years old or over you can apply for a firearms licence. This will allow you to have and use unsupervised:

  • shotguns and rifles that do not require an endorsement (as below)
  • specially dangerous airguns (including pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles).

You need a special addition to your licence (called an endorsement) to:

  • possess or use pistols for target shooting (B endorsement) and be an active member of an approved pistol club
  • collect pistols and restricted weapons or stage theatrical performances involving pistols and restricted weapons (C endorsement)
  • possess or use military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) rifles or shotguns (E endorsement)
  • possess pistols and restricted weapons in your capacity as a dealer or their employee (F endorsement).

Anyone can use an A Category firearm without a licence if they are under the immediate supervision of a licence holder. Anyone can use a pistol if they are on the range of an incorporated pistol club that is recognised by the Commissioner of Police, and under the immediate supervision of a licence holder with a B endorsement. ‘Immediate supervision’ means the licensed person is within reach and can control the firearm. The supervisor must not be using another firearm at the same time.


It will only be a matter of time before anti-gunners in America will cite New Zealand's gun buyback as something that they believe is tangible here. And, once again, we will have to remind them that we have the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, something that no other country on this earth has. Not to mention that gun owners will rise and revolt against a tyrannical government that threatens to disarm us. It would be the very instance our Founding Fathers worried about.

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