Science Deadline: Urgent changes to gun law and questions around Facebook livestreaming
Issue 514, 22 Mar 2019
Gun policies set to change
The Government has announced urgent changes to gun policy within a week of last Friday's tragedy.
Flowers outside Kilbirnie mosque, Mike Dickison, CC BY 4.0.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced new legislation
would be passed under urgency, banning all military style semi-automatics and assault rifles.
Speaking at a press conference, she said the most recent significant changes
to gun laws came following the Aramoana shootings in 1990, which saw 10-year limits introduced for licence holders and
the re-categorisation of military style semi-automatics.
"Those changes, however, did not go far enough."
An amendment to the Arms Act to give effect to the ban will be introduced when Parliament sits in the first week of
April and passed under urgency. Ardern said there would be a short Select Committee process, "so I encourage all those
who wish to submit to start now".
"My expectation is that the law will be in place by the end of the next two-week sitting session, which is by the 11th
In the meantime, an Order in Council came into effect at 3pm yesterday to prevent stockpiling. Those weapons that are
being banned under the Bill have been reclassified as requiring an E endorsement on a firearms licence.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush
said that meant those who had acquired the firearms legally with an A catergory licence will no longer be able to
"This means for many people, you will now be in unlawful possession of your firearm".
There will be a grace period for firearms to be returned, but Ardern indicated that the draft legislation would look to
increase the penalties for those who continue to possess these weapons "after a reasonable period". Currently, the
penalties range from fines of up to $4,000 and/or three years in prison.
University of Canterbury criminologist Dr Jarrod Gilbert said "past attempts to register firearms had been "seen as unworkable",
but technological changes could make this easier.
Though he said "political knee-jerk reactions after terrible events should be avoided", in this instance recommendations
had been around for a long time and were supported by the Police Association.
"The political will in the past has been absent."
The SMC gathered expert reaction
on New Zealand gun law throughout the week.
"This is how a heart breaks. This is how our world is torn apart. "
Reining in social media
Following last week's shooting, questions have been aimed at social media companies over content shared on their
The alleged offender live-streamed the attack on Facebook and video later appeared on YouTube and other social media
In a statement released today
, Facebook said the video was viewed fewer than 200 times during the 17-minute live broadcast but was not reported by
any of those viewers. Reports during livestreams are prioritised because "if there is real-world harm we have a better
chance to alert first responders and try to get help on the ground," the company said.
The first report was received 12 minutes after the broadcast ended but as the video was reported for reasons other than
suicide, "as such it was handled according to different procedures".
Within 24 hours, Facebook had removed
1.5 million versions of the video, 1.2 million of which were blocked at upload.
AUT's head of the department of computer science Associate Professor David Parry said
automatically spotting and removing offensive videos "is an extremely demanding task".
"Although Facebook does employ human moderators there are probably less than 10,000 of them whereas the number of posts
per day is in the billions."
Swinburne University of Technology senior lecturer Dr Belinda Barnet said
that while Facebook and Twitter had done a good job of removing ISIS material, "I don’t feel they’ve paid as much
attention to right-wing extremism, and in many cases have promoted it".
Dr Alistair Knott, from the University of Otago, said he believed "big tech companies should be required by law to
devote sufficient resources to important tasks like this". Public pressure wouldn't suffice, "because they are such a
Kiwi telcos, including Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, wrote an open letter
to Google, Facebook and Twitter calling for change in the wake of the mosque shootings.
The SMC gathered expert reaction
on live-streaming of traumatic events.
NZ Conversation's own page
Readers on The Conversation can now navigate directly to a New Zealand page
filled with exclusively NZ stories.
Former RNZ science journalist Veronika Meduna has been the New Zealand editor for the Conversation for two years and
over the past week has published numerous articles
following last week's attack.
The dedicated New Zealand page went live yesterday. There is also a new New Zealand-focused newsletter
Policy news & developments
Almost 50 cases of measles have been confirmed this year, with almost two-thirds of the cases linked to the current
outbreak in Canterbury.
Great Walk consultation:
DOC is seeking public feedback on the conservation management strategy for the new Paparoa Great Walk, which will pass
the site of Pike River Mine.
New mental health resources:
In the aftermath of the tragic events in Christchurch, the Ministry of Health has developed resources in several
languages to help people cope and support their children. To talk to a trained counsellor, text or call 1737.
Condolence book opened:
A national condolence book for victims of the Christchurch mosques attack can be signed at the National Library on
Molesworth Street, Wellington.