Case Study: Leading Firearms Advocacy Changes

October 7, 2021

Overview  

Franks Ogilvie assisted the Council of Licenced Firearm Owners (COLFO) to advocate on behalf of their members against significant firearms law changes. 

Issue

Following the 15 March terrorist attack in Christchurch, the Government announced they were pursuing a significant reform of firearms laws and regulations. COLFO understood some change may be required but argued the nature and scale of the proposed reform would not provide the promised outcome– increased community safety.

What we did  

COLFO wanted to ensure their members’ views were understood and heard by Government. They wanted to play a constructive role informing the changes. COLFO recognised that to do so they would need support in multiple ways including legal advice on proposed changes, strategic political advice, media and PR support, and membership fundraising and communication.

Franks Ogilvie brought together a strategy team across all of these disciplines and led the Fair and Reasonable campaign over a period of approximately 18 months.  We provided legal advice on the numerous proposed changes to the law introduced throughout this period, including drafting submissions, providing detail to MPs, and advising on Parliamentary process.

In court, COLFO challenged the government’s decision on how to define newly prohibited ammunition and its decision to not provide compensation for prohibited ammunition handed in during the firearms buyback.  Franks Ogilvie acted as the solicitors in this challenge, working with barrister Jack Hodder QC.

Franks Ogilvie also assisted with responses to developing events such as security issues with the Police buyback register, the Auditor-General’s inquiry in to the firearms buyback, the Royal Commission Report on the Mosque Attacks, and Police enforcement of firearms issues.

During this period, COLFO provided up to date information to licensed firearm owners to make them aware of new legal requirements and helped them have their views heard by Parliamentarians. During the first COVID lockdown, Franks Ogilvie helped COLFO advocate for extended licence renewal periods.

By leading a multi-disciplinary approach, Franks Ogilvie helped COLFO make sure their communications and advocacy were accurate, timely and effective.

Outcome

In the judicial review decision, Justice Cooke, made significant statements that the government cannot confiscate an individual’s property without compensation. Ultimately, COLFO lost the case, but obtained recognition that the Government’s actions were not consistent with firearms owners’ property rights.

The issues COLFO raised regarding the firearms buyback were reflected in the Auditor-General’s inquiry and the Police made changes to subsequent buybacks as a result.

COLFO successfully advocated for significant changes to legislation including on important issues like search and seizure provisions, practical changes to the firearms registry, and leading a push for firearms administration to not be carried out by Police.

COLFO is now seen as one of the leading firearms advocacy groups in NZ and is represented on the newly formed Ministerial Advisory Group.

COLFO continues to be a client of Franks Ogilvie.

If you would like to understand more about this matter or similar work, please contact Director Brigitte Morten

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