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Rachel Stewart: Owning firearms a privilege not a right

Author
Rachel Stewart, NZ Herald,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 20 March 2019, 4:10p.m.
Semi automatic weapons are useful on farms, but they are not a total necessity, writes Rachel Stewart. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Semi automatic weapons are useful on farms, but they are not a total necessity, writes Rachel Stewart. (Photo / NZ Herald)

If you ever hear me say "thoughts and prayers" to you, just know that I have dismissed you, your words, your (lack of) deeds.

Those specific words have long been as defunct and broken as New Zealand's gun laws have turned out to be.

They are also routinely muttered by deadpan US politicians in the aftermath of yet another shooting and are code for: "I don't care about your suffering and grief. I only care about the gun lobby and all the dosh they splash about, and meaningful gun control measures will not be happening on my watch."

For Americans in particular, the sight of our PM talking about our gun laws needing to change, and doing so immediately after the carnage in Christchurch, would've been akin to entering the twilight zone.

It's just not done in the nation where the Second Amendment is mostly spoken about in soft, reverential tones.

Of course, Jacinda Ardern is yet to oversee massive changes, and I'm sure she'll meet some opposition, but I'm convinced she's going to make good on her words. MSSAs — military-style semi-automatics — do need to go. Other semi-automatics? Maybe that's the end decision, but I hope not.

I use two guns that are technically defined as semi-automatic. A 10-shot .22 rifle that I use for pest eradication, and, make no mistake, it is inordinately helpful in that I can end any animal's suffering quickly. Not needing to reload using a bolt action helps achieve this.

The other is a five-shot semi-auto shotgun. I purchased it predominantly for skeet/clay bird shooting but it has also been useful for putting down large farm animals in a hurry when necessary.

These guns are available to all general firearms licence holders (Class A), and farmers find them handy, all-round utilitarian firearms, which fulfil a specific purpose.

Many city-based commentators are saying they're not necessary — and they'd be technically right — but I'm grateful for them because I don't enjoy leaving an animal (pest or otherwise) suffering under any circumstances. In my world, that's the reality.

As an aside, a year or two ago dairy farmers were banned from ending their bobby (male) calves lives with hammers or bits of wood.

Yes, some farmers were doing that on the regular, and some were outed. The rules changed, and rightly so. Guns are now the accepted method.

They kill them because feeding it valuable milk and keeping it alive is often more expensive than simply killing it.

Bobby calves don't fetch much price-wise, either for slaughter or sale. Bulls are needed far less than milk-producing cows so, sadly, the bobby calf loses its life.

I've never killed a bobby calf (nor will I), but I'm sure it's a horrible job. Firearms make the end easier for both the calf and the farmer.

Another on-farm reality that well-meaning city dwellers would do well to understand. I mean, if you regularly ingest dairy products it's helpful to know it's a normal part of the process of dairy farming, right?

I don't mean to put you off your cappuccino, but I'm making the case here for licensed, vetted, rural folk who use semi-automatic firearms as part of daily life. While doing an unpleasant job it helps to have the right tools. Not least for the animal.

I will never make the case for military-style semi-auto guns that are not necessary under any circumstances. In a farming context, you certainly don't need them for pest control, and anyone who says you do is being disingenuous. They are a "want", not a "must-have".

Whatever the Government decides, I am fully prepared to relinquish my semi-automatics.

I anticipate that the advice they receive will be solid, and therefore their reasoning logical. It may well be a case of the semi-auto shotgun needing to go, but not the .22 rifle. Or both. I don't know.

What I do know is this. I've held a firearms licence since my teens. Guns are a big part of a hunting/pest eradication in rural NZ life. I welcome new gun laws and more hoops to jump through. That is as it should be.

To think otherwise is to think like many an American. And, trust me, we don't want to go down that particular rabbit hole. It is a privilege to own firearms, NOT a right. Otherwise, New Zealand, who are we?

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