By Lidia Kelly
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A group of about 50 New Zealand firearm owners protested further gun reforms on Saturday, sounding a note of discord over the tightening of the country’s gun laws after the mass shooting in Christchurch in March that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s efforts on gun control have gained global praise, but at home – with a general election next scheduled for year – she has faced resistance from the federal opposition National Party, gun lobby groups and ordinary citizens over planned legislation introduced in September.
On Saturday, the group of firearms owners staged a protest at a gun buy-back event in Auckland, according to media reports, carrying placards bearing slogans including “This bill hurts ordinary Kiwis!” and “Be safe: reject arms bill”.
The new legislation now moving through parliament would create a gun register and tighten vetting of owners, among other changes. In April parliament passed nearly unanimously laws curbing the use and circulation of most semi-automatic firearms.
Stuff.nz, a New Zealand news website, cited Victoria O’Brien, a national shooting champion, as saying that guns being bought back and destroyed had cultural significance.
“There is a desecration of New Zealand history going on – we’re talking World War I, World War II guns,” O’Brien was cited as saying.
“We want them to stop and actually target the illegal possession of firearms,” she said, urging the government to put reforms on hold.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)