Chairman's Report 2008-2009


On behalf of the Board I present this report of our activities for the period 1st April 2008 – 31st March 2009. This is not the COLFO financial year – it is the time between two Annual General Meetings and appears better suited to a management report of our activities. Most who are attending the AGM will know this is the last COLFO report I will present.

Years ago I realised that vigorous organisations require regular leadership changes or they stagnate and although I tried for several years to persuade others to accept the Chair’s job I was persuaded to stay on. I have now made the decision to call it a day and put my time into family, personal interests and responsibilities.

 

BACKGROUND

COLFO is an organisation created by New Zealand’s major firearms’ user Associations and incorporated on 8th August 1996 – which makes this year our 13th – hopefully a lucky 13th!

COLFO was created to protect the existing rights and privileges of responsible NZ firearms users and owners.

The founding intention was that the shooting-sports organisations would go about their core businesses of organising shooting practices, competitions, collecting and hunting etc while a combined body assembled the specialist skills, tools and knowledge to protect the current rights and privileges of the member Associations.

The founders agreed that each would levy their individual members a small annual fee, something in the order of the cost of a packet of .22rf ammunition, so that all would be treated fairly and equally. The individual members of the major Associations would each pay the same annual fee as the members of smaller organisations.

The best analogy I can find to describe the COLFO brief is that the organisation is like a special Fire Department set up to control the incidents that break out and threaten responsible firearms owners and users.

As it is with the modern fire control business there are individuals who don’t have fire insurance because they have not paid the fire service levy – however the Brigade still calls in the event of a fire – and so it is with the incidents that COLFO manages.

COLFO has no other brief. The organisation was not created to defend individuals offending against our laws; those people are acting against the interests of responsible gun owners, and their activities should be seen as that. Nor is it in our brief to stage competitions, or to seek law changes that would benefit some of our members at the cost to others – our issue is ‘existing rights and privileges…’ and we have pursued that rigorously in this year as have in the previous. Our Constitution and ‘Position Papers’ are available for all to see and for COLFO to follow.

ACTIVITIES

Our ‘highlight’ activity in this year was being accepted by the United Nations as ‘A NGO in Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council’.

Here is an excerpt from the news release circulated by the UN ‘Committee on NGO Organisations’ on June 6th 2008:

The Committee recommended three groups for roster status, including:  NTIC et citoyenneté, an organization in Mauritania that promotes the use of information and communication technology among the people of Mauritania as a tool for development; Center for Health and Gender Equity, an organization in the United States that studies the effects of that country’s policies on the health and rights of women and girls abroad; and New Zealand Council of Licensed Firearms Owners, which seeks to preserve the rights and privileges of licensed firearms users.

Few realise just how important that recognition and its subsequent acceptance is.

In simple terms ‘NGO’ means ‘Non Government Organisation’ – an organisation that is neither influenced nor controlled by a Government and this recognition gives New Zealand firearms’ owners the ability to be heard and consulted by the United Nations – in our own right.

Some will think this is irrelevant to ordinary New Zealanders but that is an enormous misunderstanding. The United Nations leans heavily towards ‘peace’ and ‘collective co-operation’ - and there is nothing wrong with that – but those ideals attract people and organisations that pursue them with considerable vigour. In practice they confuse their goals (peace, cooperation, harmony etc) with the processes they follow. So they conclude that if firearms’ possession was limited to Government agencies, violent crime and the misuse of firearms would disappear.  Yeah right!

There are approximately 3000 NGOs recognised by the UN and about 800 of them have joined ranks to convince the UN to impose harsh restrictions and bans on the civilian possession of firearms. That anti-gun view is countered by around 15 NGOs who represent the interests of responsible firearms users’.

Our application involved a very substantial amount of work and we are very thankful for the support we received from the NZ Mission who attended some of the NGO consideration meetings. We received support from some neutral delegations but in the end we hired a US Lawyer to lobby on our behalf.

COLFO’s struggle to become a recognised NGO involved some costs, a great deal of effort and personal time; and negotiating a number of minefields. We made it across and COLFO now has the ability to sit at the UN table in meetings at which the non-government New Zealand viewpoint on firearms issues and laws was previously presented by anti-gun activists.

Please visit the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) website www.iansa.org to gauge the opposition to our sport and hobby. IANSA describes themselves as ‘the global movement against gun violence - a network of 800 civil society organisations working in 120 countries to stop the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons (SALW). IANSA seeks to make people safer from gun violence by securing stronger regulation on guns in society and better controls on arms export’

You may also like to check out this lovely little online video http://www.iansa.org/campaigns_events/WoA2008/kill-the-gun.htm

COLFO also attended the UN ‘Third Biennial Meeting of States to consider ‘The Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects’ New York 14th -18th July 2008. We were accorded ‘adviser’ status at this meeting and were a part of the NZ Delegation. So too was Mr Philip Alpers who was representing GunPolicy.org and who is a ‘Founder Member’ of IANSA.

My report of that meeting will offer an insight into the importance of COLFO’s continued involvement at this level. There you will see a mention of brokering, microstamping and like matters. If you only read a piece of the report try ‘Notes and Observation’ on Page 12 – it offers an idea of the lengths the anti-gun campaign uses to influence the UN.

ARMS OFFICERS SEMINAR

Because of our interaction with the UN I was invited by the NZ Police to attend and speak on the firearms control process at the UN and that is a valuable interaction between firearms users and the NZ Government Department responsible for the Arms Act.  These interactions seem to be unique to New Zealand where Police and firearms owners work together for a common goal – safe and responsible possession of firearms.

WEBSITE

For the first time since we came into being we have a very modern and informative website that is easy to use. Gary Howat had accepted the job of upgrading that site and the result is worth a regular look.  (www.colfo.org.nz)

ELECTION

All will remember that we had a general election in 2008 and as in the past COLFO made small contributions to those political parties that support our concept of effective gun laws. COLFO also printed and distributed a bumper sticker but for the first time this did not receive unanimous support from members and gun owners. The message ‘Responsible Voter’ over ‘www.colfo.org’ was intended to encourage people to look at our website – and many did but the distribution support we had previously received from member associations was lacking this time around and a few individuals criticised it as not being aggressive enough. The main effect of the sticker of course comes from the sitting MPs who get it – along with a letter about us. And the effect is magnified when MPs see the sticker on constituent cars!

The election resulted in a change from a ‘Centre Left’ Government to one from the ‘Centre Right’ and this is unlikely to have a big effect on firearms owners.

CADET RIFLES

Although the preservation of heritage NZ artefacts is not a part of our core business we were able to use our status, knowledge, and personal contacts to support those who were asking Government not to destroy a number of Cadet Force training rifles. Some may see this as a small victory but our intervention appears to have been the catalyst that overturned a longstanding NZ Government Policy requiring ALL surplus Government owned firearms to be destroyed. It was a very satisfactory outcome and one in which COLFO helped all New Zealanders and not just sections of the firearms community.

MFAT BRIEFINGS

As in previous years COLFO has attended MFAT Disarmament Division meetings. It is here that NZ shooting sport representatives get to interact with various peace groups that also attend. Both groups benefit by the calm and positive attitude shown by the other and the realisation that we are really seeking the same end goal – a reduction in firearms violence.

OUTLOOK

GUN LAWS - the new Government is moving quickly with all sorts of Legislation and they have said they will get the Arms Bill (No. 3) back into the House as soon as possible. This is a double edged sword that will give all interested parties the opportunity to argue for changed legislation. Just how it will pan out is hard to guess but Governments has said they will call for new submissions. The new COLFO Board will need to look closely at the Bill when it appears.

MEMBERSHIP - the biggest setback COLFO has experienced since our formation is the recent news that two of our larger member organisations are reducing their support for COLFO. Both Pistol NZ (formally NZ Pistol Association) and the Antique and Historical Arms Association (formally Antique Arms Association) have said that their contributions to COLFO are too costly given their current circumstances. Naturally the COLFO Board is disappointed but on the other hand I understand that anti-gun groups are delighted by the news.

Both Governments and anti-gun organisations around the world have recognised COLFO as an organisation of substance that speaks for the majority of New Zealand firearms owners and users.  They have heard us argue the benefits of cooperation between our Government and ‘civil society’ and they have seen the benefits. They know we have the financial ability to support our words with real advertising and/or legal campaigns. In short we are respected; but without finance and with disinterested members – NZ gun owners will soon become yesterday’s breakfast.

Here are some remarks made by Tom Mason from the WFSA. Tom will elaborate on these by speaker phone at the AGM – and attendees will have a chance to question him.

1. COLFO is pretty much unique among the NGOs that have official recognized status at the UN.  COLFO is not perceived as being part of the ‘American gun lobby.’  COLFO is an ideal voice not just for the New Zealand firearms community, but all of the other firearms groups in the world.  COLFO has developed impressive credibility at the UN and that benefits us all.

2. COLFO is listened to by the government of New Zealand.  In addition the government of NZ has been very good at the UN on firearms issues.

COLFO can play a significant role in the ATT regional meeting for Asia September 8-9, Kula Lumpur Malaysia.  It is crucial that COLFO be there.

THE UN – are progressing an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and this will greatly complicate the transportation of firearms, firearms parts, ammunition, and components. There are also matters on the possession and storage of ammunition on the go and I want to repeat the quote originally mentioned in my report on the 3rd BMS ‘[let’s] get a ban on the transfer of Military Weapons to NSAs and then we can work on a ban for non military weapons, hunting guns, sporting weapons etc’ (NSA = Non State Actors, ie Civilians)

‘A ‘How to’ Guide – Small Arms and Light Weapons’ is a UN publication that all interested in firearms laws should read. This is a 185 page document that outlines what in necessary to consider when changing gun laws. Let me say that it was not written by a gun owner but it should be read by gun owners – particularly those who like our laws! It can be accessed from the UNDP site or COLFO can email you a PDF copy.

FINALLY

I thank the Board for their devotion and efforts during the past year. From a personal viewpoint I would like to say that the time consuming numbers of emails that fly around these days reminds me of duckweed in the drainage ditch. Around 30 emails to approve a letterhead!! IMO the new Board needs to devote their time to gun law matters and not unnecessary debates.

As this is my last task as a member of the Board I would like to mention a few that have been serving firearms owners since the formation of COLFO and who are still on the Board.

Ted Rogers – I have worked with Ted on gun control matters since the early 1980s. It has been a great pleasure to have Ted around when there was a job to be done.

Andre Doyle – Another who understands the situation and puts his shoulder to the wheel whenever necessary. Ted and Andre ‘saved’ COLFO in the early days when we ran out of money.

Paul Clark – He was the ‘driving force’ in establishing COLFO.

Trevor Dyke – Makes a real effort to attend meetings and to prepare for them. Offers practical and informed comments and produces the goods when asked.

Dianne Brown – Not a foundation Board Member but a workaholic who does far more than what is expected of her!

Thank you all – together we made the impossible dream a reality.

JOHN HOWAT
CHAIRMAN NZ Council of Licensed Firearms Owners Inc.
April 2009

 

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