Act New Zealand leader David Seymour attracted 30 people to Oamaru’s Brydone Hotel on Monday night.
The outspoken Epsom MP thanked New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association North Otago president Nathan Barnes for inviting him to Oamaru and for setting out so many seats in the meeting room – most of which remained empty.
Many present supported Mr Seymour’s opposition to gun law reforms after the Christchurch mosque attacks. He was the only MP to vote against the first tranche of changes.
Mr Seymour began by sketching in his personal background. His mother was one of the last people in the Western world to get polio and was told she would never go to university, have children, work or drive. She became the chief pharmacist of the Northland District Health Board and had three sons.
“Life throws all sorts of different things at us. We can overcome them if we believe we can make a difference.”
His family owned electricity businesses and he is an electrical engineer.
“My empathy is always with the self-employed.
“I’m from Northland; I’ve got a bit of Maori in me.
“I’m individualistic, provincial, determined.
“I suspect that’s why I’ve found I’ve got a bit of a relation with the firearms community.”
Mr Seymour said “New Zealanders as a people behaved better than any nation could have” after the Christchurch attacks. It led him to wonder what holds the country together.
He concluded that every New Zealander, or their ancestors, had “travelled further for a better life for their offspring than anyone else in humanity”.
“Why the hell would you do it to put up with mediocrity?”
Therefore, he said, he knew he had to vote against the gun law changes.
“It was rushed and, frankly, theatrical law-making.
“Generally, it’s wrong to rush things through Parliament. You can’t take the wisdom of the community with you.”
Everyone needed the opportunity to have their views heard, he said. That system has “worked enormously better than any other scheme throughout the world”.
The changes had “almost blamed and scapegoated a group of New Zealanders [gun-owners] who did nothing wrong for the most heinous crime in our history”.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was “a genuinely lovely person who genuinely wants the best for New Zealand”, Mr Seymour said.
“It would have been much more on brand to have a nationwide hui and use design thinking to ensure New Zealanders were safer from firearms.
“She would also be unassailable. It would be impossible for anyone to criticise her.”
Instead, the law was like something from the end of the Muldoon era, “with nicer language and a nicer smile”.
Mr Seymour said he felt vindicated in his stance every day by the low number and quality of firearms being handed in at the buyback events.
“They’re buying a lot of old junk.
“Somewhere out there are a whole lot of centerfire automatics, probably in the wrong hands.
“We will have pushed more high-powered weapons into the black market.”
The Act Party has developed new firearms policies it would want included in a new government after the 2020 general election. It hoped to receive 50,000 to 100,000 votes and have two to five MPs, producing “a pretty high likelihood no-one will be able to govern without us”.
Mr Seymour would tell the prospective prime minister there had been a fundamental failure of empathy with all firearms owners – ironically, they were the only ones in the country with pieces of paper to say they were suitable owners.
Act wanted to take firearms administration off the police and assign it to a specialised authority.
People who committed crimes with firearms should be punished properly, and New Zealand border authorities should be stricter in checking who was allowed into the country and to buy guns, Mr Seymour said.
He liked a suggestion from the floor of a separate category for those who were licensed to use a firearm but did not have suitable storage, so would not be allowed to own a gun.
Online firearms licensing should be scrapped in favour of face-to-face licensing, which could result in higher fees, he said.
Mr Seymour was opposed to a full register.
“It would be insane to have a register of every tinpot .22 up and down the country.
“The less data the Government has, the better.”
A member of the audience said the best argument against universal firearms registration was the recent theft of a Glock pistol from the police. The fact its details were logged did nothing to prevent it being stolen.