CNN responded to the heinous attacks in Christchurch by claiming that New Zealand’s gun control is too “lax.” The CNN headline read, “Christchurch massacre highlights lax New Zealand gun control laws.” They report that would-be gun owners must first acquire a license and undergo a background check, then suggest that New Zealand lacks firearm registration. They report, “Gun owners do need a license but they aren’t required to register their guns.” CNN links to a New Zealand Police source citing no overarching registration requirement. However, CNN missed the fact that the New Zealand Police note a “specific endorsement” requirement for “each military style semiautomatic, pistol, and restricted weapon.” In other words, there is a means of registration required for certain types of weapons in New Zealand, and those types of weapons include handguns and some of the firearms used in the mosque attacks.
For example, University of Sydney’s GunPolicy.org reports, “In New Zealand, private possession of handguns (pistols and revolvers) is restricted to police-approved licensed gun owners with a ‘pistol’ licence endorsement. Each handgun must be registered to its owner and securely stored.” Moreover, New Zealand keeps a registry of every resident licensed to own a gun. According to GunPolicy, “In New Zealand, authorities maintain a record of individual civilians licensed to acquire, possess, sell or transfer a firearm or ammunition.”
That said, gun-inflicted fatalities remain relatively low in New Zealand. According to figures compiled by the University of Sydney, New Zealand had 0.17 gun-related homicides per 100,000 people in 2015. This is in contrast to the United States, which had 11 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Potential gun owners in New Zealand must be over the age of 16 and pass a police background check, according to GunPolicy.org and its founder Professor Philip Alpers.
According to Alpers, New Zealand firearm legislation has remained substantially unaltered since 1992. Five years later retired High Court judge Thomas Thorp’s year-long Review of Firearms Control in New Zealand (1997) recommended major changes, among them that all firearms be individually registered; that restricted weapons like privately held machine guns be permanently disabled; and for a buy-back of military-style semi-automatic weapons. Alpers, who is based at the University of Sydney but originally from New Zealand, told CNN: “Not one of these measures has been addressed by legislation. Government has since considered a range of similar recommendations, but special interest groups prevent meaningful change.”In 79 countries surveyed by the United Nations, firearm registration is the accepted norm and a cornerstone of gun control, according to GunPolicy.org. Among developed nations, New Zealand’s decision not to register 96% of civilian firearms makes it a stand-out exception, alone with the United States and Canada, Alpers said.