COLFO media releases on the Ammo Ban & Court Action
JUDGE SAYS RIGHTS CASE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
FRIDAY 21 AUGUST 2020
A High Court judge says the case taken by COLFO to defend compensation rights was in the public interest so costs awarded against COLFO should be reduced.
The substantive judgment in June found that New Zealanders do have a right to compensation when government abrogates property rights, but Parliament could legislate against that right.
In his decision on costs, Cooke J said the “Court’s judgment vindicated the [property compensation] right notwithstanding that the claims were unsuccessful.”
The Judge said individuals and groups seeking to uphold property rights should not be dissuaded from taking court action by prohibitively high costs.
“Questions of legality, and legal principle, should be central when the government is responding to a crisis or emergency. Litigation challenging decisions made in such circumstances is not to be discouraged by costs awards, particularly if it properly concerns the protection of individual rights... These factors should be taken into account in deciding costs in this case.”
COLFO Chairman Michael Dowling says that judgement echoed similar recent Court decisions about Parliament over-riding rights and law.
“In recent weeks it has been established that New Zealanders’ rights can be overridden by governments when they choose. But we must continue to fight for our rights, including to property, and compensation when the State takes it from us.”
“This court case has given a good signal to voters about how to place their vote this election,” says Dowling.
COLO has been ordered to pay costs of $25,071.15, minus a 20 per cent reduction.
COLFO said the costs would be paid using donations raised for the legal case.
COLFO is appealing the June judgment, which found in favour of the Crown.
HIGH COURT DECISION EMBARRASSES GOVT
THURSDAY 25 JUNE 2020
A High Court decision today on a case taken by the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) is an "intensely awkward and embarrassing moment for the Government".
The Court found that the Minister of Police had acted against property rights when he banned some classes of commonly held ammunition without compensation, but that it was legal because Parliament endorsed this decision by passing legislation to do so.
COLFO Chairman Michael Dowling says:
"This Government claims to be fair and honest, but has been found to have acted against the right of every New Zealander to compensation for their property, citing reasons that are not true.
"The High Court found the Minister of Police acted unjustly and without good reason when he deprived thousands of New Zealanders of their lawfully purchased property without compensation.
“The judgement said it was not true that the ammunition was particularly dangerous, and not true that it must be removed following the Christchurch shooting to make people safer. This is damaging for a government that claims to be honest and transparent."
Dowling says that while the judge was unable to over-rule the Minister’s reclassification, voters can.
“Parliament has destroyed property rights. The power is now in the hands of the people. Come September, it is essential to vote for a Government that protects the rights of citizens to their property."
COURT HEARS NASH CHOSE NOT TO COMPENSATE AMMO OWNERS
TUESDAY 5 MAY 2020
Today the Crown will try to convince a judge that an Order in Council banning, confiscating and ordering the destruction of certain types of legally purchased ammunition was not a breach of property rights requiring compensation.
Yesterday, the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners’ lawyer presented evidence showing Minister Stuart Nash had the power to compensate ammunition holders for their loss but chose not to.
On day one of the two-day hearing, COLFO’s lawyer outlined how Minister Nash’s decision had taken away the property rights of all individuals possessing tracer or enhanced penetration ammunition.
COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee says:
“The Order in Council prohibiting these classes of ammunition did not face the scrutiny of Parliament but has had significant financial repercussions for law-abiding people. Because this Order did not go through Parliament, there was no opportunity for the licenced firearm owning community to make submissions, and we have therefore been forced to take the matter to court.”
McKee says compensation should have been part of the reform in the first place.
“Minister Nash had the power to introduce a compensation scheme just as he had done for firearms. But he chose not to and has left thousands of everyday hunters and shooters picking up the bill. Kiwis expect a fair go from their government – if they stop you using your property, we rightfully expect compensation.”
“If the Government wins this case, it will set a very dangerous precedent for New Zealand. It will mean future governments will be able to deny the value of private property either by ordering its destruction or confiscation, meaning individual New Zealanders would have to wear the loss.”
COURT CASE WILL TEST LIMIT OF GOVT POWER
MONDAY 4 MAY 2020
In a time when the Christchurch shootings and the Covid-19 pandemic have allowed the Government to take the opportunity to increase its power, a case in the Wellington High Court today will test the Government’s right to ban property without evidence for the rationale, and without compensation.
The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners is seeking a Judicial Review of the actions of the Minister of Police in banning, confiscating and ordering the destruction of certain types of ammunition without evidence that it will improve New Zealanders' overall safety.
At the heart of the issue is whether the Minister of Police took the wrong information into account when determining what was ‘prohibited ammunition’. COLFO is also asking the Court to determine that the government should provide compensation for the banned ammunition.
Nicole McKee, spokesperson for COLFO, said extraordinary events within the past twelve months had revealed that there was little to stop the Government acting in arbitrary and excessive ways.
“It seems that this Government can act beyond the intent of law as long as they can cite extraordinary circumstances to discourage people challenging them.
“Firearm owners were the first to experience this, after the Christchurch attack encouraged the Government to give itself powers to deny citizens the use of their property. Decisions made under these powers were not scrutinised by Parliament, nor were the public or those affected consulted.”
The Arms (Prohibited Arms, Parts, and Magazines) Amendment Act 2019 made it an offence to possess, sell or supply prohibited ammunition.
Armed with that power, the government determined that prohibited ammunition included some types of ammunition that licenced firearm owners have been legitimately using, in some cases, bought directly from the government. As an example, these types of ammunition include ‘enhanced penetration’ that is ambiguously defined so many firearm owners may not even know they have it. Unlike firearms, the Government did not provide any compensation for banning this ammunition
There are three judicial review causes of action that COLFO is challenging:
- That there is a common law right to compensation when the government takes away personal property
- That the Minister failed to consider relevant matters, considered irrelevant matters and acted for an improper purpose when looking at what should be included as ‘prohibited ammunition’
- That the Minister in determining whether to provide compensation, considered irrelevant matters, failed to consider relevant matters and action for an improper purpose
OWNERS WANT COMPENSATION FOR PROPERTY CONFISCATION
SUNDAY 3 MAY 2020
Firearm owners go to the Wellington High Court tomorrow for a reversal of the ban on certain types of ammunition, and to seek compensation for the private property confiscated by the government.
The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners is seeking a High Court Judicial Review of the actions of the Minister of Police in banning and confiscating certain types of ammunition without evidence that it will improve New Zealander’s overall safety.
One of the questions is whether the Minister of Police took the wrong information into account when determining what would be ‘prohibited ammunition’. COLFO is also asking the Court to determine that the government should provide compensation for the property taken from law-abiding licenced firearms owners.
Nicole McKee, spokesperson for COLFO, said the Government’s confiscation of certain types of ammunition had no clear justification.
“The Government has banned and confiscated certain categories of ammunition with no evidence that they posed any additional danger to the safety of New Zealanders. They were able to ban these without taking the issue to Parliament to be questioned and scrutinised by other Members of Parliament, so we have been forced to challenge the Government’s actions in court.
“In making and then implementing this rushed decision, the Government sought no advice from firearm owners or their representatives. The wording of the ban was so broad that it appeared to include shotgun ammunition used for duck hunting. Once this was pointed out by COLFO the Order was changed for clarity.
“The Government considered this ammunition dangerous enough to ban, but they did not hold a formal hand-in event and no compensation was offered. The changes to the Government’s classification of these types of rounds was poorly communicated and wrought with confusion, as was their explanation of the process to follow to dispose of the ammunition. The poor communication, coupled with the refusal to offer compensation, embittered the firearm community. More so for those who had legally purchased this now banned ammunition through Government supply.”
The way this Government set about banning and confiscating private property without debate or compensation is bigger than the firearms ammunition issue. It goes to the heart of property ownership and the dangerous precedent that this Order in Council has set.
The Arms (Prohibited Arms, Parts, and Magazines) Amendment Act 2019 made it an offence to possess, sell or supply prohibited ammunition.
AMMO AMNESTY NOT EXTENDED, BUT POLICE PRETENDING IT HAS BEEN
FRIDAY 6 DECEMBER 2019
The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) has had to clarify the law with Police and receive their reassurance that while the amnesty for ammunition was not extended to 20 December, Police will act as if it has been.
Since 30 September everyone with now-banned ammunition have technically been criminals and could be prosecuted. The ammo amnesty ended on 30 September 2019.
COLFO spokeswoman Nicole McKee says that the Police reassurance is practical, but it is just not right that we should have them deciding which laws to enforce and which to ignore. Some people are nervous that the Police policy could change back just as easily.
“The Government is trying to absolve itself of responsibility for the ammunition amnesty by letting Police make the decision. Giving Police the power to pick and choose which laws they enforce and which they turn a blind eye to puts New Zealand in very dangerous territory.”
“We expect our Parliament to make laws once they have considered the facts and heard from affected communities. Now we have Police extending an amnesty without any legal basis. The Police decision is good news for licenced firearms owners this time around. But the Government should not be letting them or driving them to be a law unto themselves,” says McKee.
McKee says that the ammunition ban was always confusing, because firearms and ammunition are treated differently.
“Many licenced firearms owners are applying to Police for exemptions to allow them to hold onto prohibited firearms. Yet while these applications are considered, they are being told to dispose of ammunition for these firearms and receive no compensation.”
COLFO has asked the High Court to over-rule the Minister’s decision to confiscate ammunition without compensation.
“Unilaterally confiscating property without compensation is not the Kiwi way. New Zealand prides itself on starting to right the Crown’s historic injustices, which saw properties confiscated without compensation. How have they not learnt the lesson?”
“Licenced firearms owners are now hanging onto ammo, hoping the Crown will realise the mistake. Some will leave it too late, even with the current Police ‘no enforcement’ stance, given how many times the goal posts have already been shifted. New Zealanders want to live under laws passed by our legislators, not grace and favour blind eyes from a police force. Parliament needs to extend the ammunition amnesty.”
COLFO AMMO COURT BATTLE "A TEST FOR ALL KIWIS"
MONDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2019
The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) has asked the High Court to review the new regulation banning several classes of firearms ammunition.
The review could benefit all New Zealanders because it will determine whether the Government can outlaw ownership of property without compensation.
COLFO is seeking an order that some ammunition should not have been included in the Arms (Prohibited Ammunition) 2019 Order, and that not paying compensation is invalid.
COLFO says Police Minister Stuart Nash applied the wrong test when banning several classes of ammunition, a move that in no way improves public safety. COLFO wants the ban overturned and, at the very least, fair compensation to owners for financial loss.
“All New Zealanders should be concerned by bans without compensation of legally purchased products. This sets a truly dangerous precedent. Today it’s ammunition and licenced firearms owners, but if politicians are able to ban things without financial remedy, there’s no telling what’s next,“ says COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee.
She said many firearms owners own hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars’ worth of ammunition that the Government has now banned.
“They have been told to surrender it and receive no compensation in return. Firearms owners are quite rightly angry, so we’re going to court to get a fair deal for them.”
Licenced firearms owners found in possession of the now-banned ammunition – including surplus tracer rounds sold legally in bulk by the Crown – can face penalties of up to two years in jail.
“Many licenced firearms owners will have purchased this ammunition from the Crown in good faith – now that good faith has been destroyed,” says McKee.
“The licenced firearms community has a long and constructive history of working with Police and Government to ensure firearms laws are fair, reasonable and put public safety first and foremost.
“But this knee-jerk, penny-pinching approach is ruining what was a very good relationship.”
McKee says the Government should make good on compensating owners as a bare minimum.
“Kiwis believe in a fair go. When the Government restricts our rights to property, compensation is only reasonable. Treat us fairly and give us a fair deal, or undo the law that made the ammunition illegal.”
COLFO’s application to the High Court is available here.
POLICE CORRECTION OF SHOTGUN CARTRIDGE ERROR A "BITTERSWEET VICTORY"
THURSDAY 17 OCTOBER 2019
COLFO has described as a “bittersweet victory” its triumph in getting Police to correct a wording error that banned shotgun cartridges.
COLFO wrote to the Minister of Police last week advising of an intent to seek a judicial review of the ban, in part because it inadvertently included shotgun cartridges.
COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee said the error, brazenly denied by Police even as officials worked behind the scenes to correct the formal wording, was one of many brought about by hasty drafting.
“It’s bittersweet to be proven correct when we know there are dozens of far more serious things wrong with the firearms ban and the proposed new legislation.
“The sloppy drafting that caught shotgun pellets is overshadowed by the unfair and unprincipled refusal to compensate owners of banned ammunition and is equalled by the casual banning of tracer ammunition, which presents no more safety issue than non-prohibited ammunition.
“The sloppy drafting is nothing compared to the injustice, the unintended effects, and errors in the Arms Bill now being considered by a Select Committee, which makes New Zealanders less safe.
“The sloppy drafting is nothing compared to the firearm ban which encompasses firearms without any conceivable relationship to the terrible shooting in Christchurch in March.”
McKee was astonished to see the Police use “calculated dissembling” over their mistake when they claimed that there was no ban on shotgun cartridges because that was not their intention.
“Of course Police didn’t intend to ban shotgun cartridges – but that was how they drafted the law.
“They claimed that their interpretation mattered, not the words. It is not for the Police to interpret the law. But, the new Bill provides expressly that the Police can adjust the law as they go. It usurps Parliament.
“We look forward to better engagement with the Government and Police over all the remaining issues, to avoid mistakes.”
COLFO PLANS COURT ACTION OVER AMMO BAN
MONDAY 14 OCTOBER 2019
The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) is recommending members hold on to potentially illegal shotgun shells containing steel shot until the law banning certain types of ammunition is clarified.
COLFO wrote to the Minister of Police on Wednesday last week, giving Stuart Nash 10 days to suspend the ban or it would apply to the court for a Judicial Review.
A range of ammunition was banned by the Government on October 1, without compensation. Legal advice provided to COLFO is that a vague description in the ban on “steel” ammunition means shotgun cartridges used by duck shooters may now be prohibited.
“It’s a ridiculous situation that seemingly criminalises thousands of unwitting duck shooters,” says COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee.
“Most duck shooters have converted to steel shot from lead, which was banned to protect waterways and wetlands from lead pollution. The ammunition they are using is now technically illegal under the new law because steel projectiles enable ‘better penetration’.
“We have notified the Minister of Police that we may seek a Judicial Review to sort out this anomaly, among several others that have crept in as a result of a rushed drafting. Until then, we’re telling our members to hold on to shotgun shells containing steel shot.”
McKee said COLFO also wanted the Minister to re-examine the ban on tracer ammunition, banned because Government advisers saw no “civilian” uses for it.
“That’s another red herring. People get this ammunition because the Army disposes of it in large quantities. It is used as practice rounds by sports shooters in safe environments or by people who reload their own ammunition. We told the Government this.
“Tracers are no more dangerous than any other non-prohibited ammunition of similar calibre and ballistics.”
COLFO’s biggest concern is that firearms owners are expected to hand over banned ammunition without any compensation.
“People act in response to incentives – and none have been offered to them over ammunition,” says McKee.
“We wouldn’t be surprised if people opt to hang on to these types of rounds, even though they’re now illegal. It’s unnecessarily and unfairly criminalising thousands of law-abiding people.”