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Opinion – Our ability to shoot on farms and private property is under threat

The proposed new Arms Legislation Bill has a number of very tough and restrictive amendments, but one that Kiwi hunters and shooters should be worried about is section 38: “Shooting Clubs and Shooting Ranges”. What this focuses on is the registration, approval and management of clubs and the certification and management of ranges. Clubs will face some big challenges; they’ll have to become incorporated and have a level of bureaucracy that I expect will force some smaller clubs to close. Clubs will also be responsible for the ranges they use and the certification required to operate those ranges. We don’t have enough ranges as it is in NZ, and if a club can no longer meet the legal requirements and consequently shuts down, we potentially start losing ranges and end up with people sighting in rifles on riverbanks and rural roadsides.

A group or club that shoots on a farm or other private property must have that piece of land certified as a range; breaking the law, in this instance, could result in a $10,000 fine. So, events like long-range field shoots, simulated clay-target field shoots, rimfire field target competitions, sighting-in ranges, and even duck shooting on a private pond could all require that land to be certified as a shooting range. Complicating this is the fact that the act states the primary purpose of the facility (farm, part of farm or other property, Maori land, etc.) is then for shooting, and we all know the primary purpose of most of that land is not shooting – it’s often grazing animals or growing crops.

We’re also aware from questions raised in the Firearms Community Advisory Forum meetings that police already have their people being trained by NZ Defence Force range inspectors on how to certify ranges. The military specifications for ranges are a lot tighter than current standards used by Pistol NZ, NZ Deerstalkers and the National Rifle Association (NRA), and this may see some ranges that are currently deemed safe being closed because they don’t fit military templates.

It’s clear this is being driven primarily by NZ Police; in talking with a number of MPs over the last few months, it’s also clear many of them don’t understand the detail. The new bill is being examined by the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO) lawyers, and their legal opinion will be published by the time you read this.

What can you do? Contribute to the COLFO Fair and Reasonable campaign, and keep informed by reading COLFO updates and keeping an eye on the NZRod&Rifle Facebook page. If you feel your club or range is at risk here, do write to your MP and, as always, keep it to the point and be polite and factual.

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