Regional clubs in firing line

    Target shooting representatives say new range certification rules and costs will potentially mean the death of clubs operating in community halls in Southland. Photo: File

    THE new Arms Act is completely missing the mark and will drown firearms clubs in red tape, Target Shooting Southland past president Quinton Erskine says.

    Multiple target shooting clubs in the south may be forced to fold when new sections of the Arms Act 2020 come into force after June 24, he believes.

    ‘‘All the ranges and clubs in Southland are run and staffed by volunteers. The big concern is… there would be a lot more paper and compliance work to do and some will just walk away leaving one less community group in their area teaching firearm safety,’’ he said.

    Police Deputy Commissioner Jevon McSkimming said the new regulations created a requirement for all shooting clubs across all codes to be approved and all shooting ranges to be certified by the Police Commissioner.

    He said the proposals for the new regulations recognised shooting clubs and ranges played an important role in promoting the responsible and safe use of firearms, by providing a controlled space.

    He accepted while clubs operated responsibly, they did solely on a voluntary basis, but the law change now obligated them to ensure responsibilities were met.

    Mr Erskine said target shooting clubs throughout the country already had strict codes of conduct and safety, having to abide by Target Shooting New Zealand rules.

    The government regulations were only adding a heavy layer of red tape which did not achieve anything.

    Southland has multiple target shooting clubs divided into five regions across the province. But it only has one dedicated indoor range, located in Invercargill, with regional club shooting activities often held in rural community halls.

    Mr Erskine believed range certification rules and costs would potentially mean the death of clubs operating in community halls. He doubted those ranges would be approved, despite
    holding flawless safety records.

    Rules now require clubs selling ammunition to be incorporated societies.

    Police have released a 137-page discussion document and were requesting submissions from clubs in an attempt to build a workable framework fit for purpose. Final proposals would be presented to cabinet for approval after submissions closed on May 4.

    Established clubs would be allowed to continue their activities as long as they had applied for approval or certification by June 24, 2023. But uncertified clubs could be fined up to $10,000.

    Each of the estimated 3000 New Zealand clubs across all shooting codes would be required to submit annual reports and financial records of their operations to police.

    Council of Licensed Firearm Owners spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack said members had deep concerns about the police’s ability to administer the Arms Act.

    Applications for firearms licenses were already taking up to 18 months to be approved, with licensed firearms owners being treated by the police as “criminals or dodgy, not citizens who desired to use firearms safely’’, he said.

    “A standard firearms license renewal is now taking up to one-and-a-half years, and there are barely a quarter of a million firearm owners.

    “Imagine if we saw the same delay when renewing drivers’ licences…”

    The Sporting Shooters Association of New Zealand wants a re-write of the Arms Act because it believes the new regulations for shooting clubs and ranges were unworkable.

    New Zealand Sporting Shooters Association president Chaz Forsyth said the new regulations in the Arms Act 2020 were “another example of vindictive bureaucracy dictated by government idealogy against lawful firearms owners following the Christchurch massacre.

    “We all know that tragedy was perpetrated by a lone fanatic…”

    The police and government were targeting the wrong people as teaching firearm safety was the major role of clubs.

    “There has been no evidence of safety issues reported on civilian ranges in New Zealand…

    “To close down clubs and shooting ranges because they think that will help is like banning driver training to save lives on the roads.’’

    Mr Forsyth did not believe the government had any real intention of listening to those affected by the new regulations.