New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has lamented a fresh loss of unity on national gun reforms in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack.
Opposition leader Simon Bridges says his party is unlikely to support a second raft of changes, including a national gun register, higher non-compliance penalties and new controls on dealers.
The National Party’s position, attacked by Ms Ardern as well as the police lobby, is unlikely to scuttle the reforms, given they hold a minority of the seats in parliament.
But it could set up a major dividing line between the two parties ahead of next year’s election.
Along with farming, hunting and police lobby groups, National supported the first-wave reforms in March, including bans on semi-automatic rifles.
On Wednesday, after a leak of the draft laws, Mr Bridges declared his likely opposition.
Chris Cahill, president of the New Zealand Police Association, said he feared “politicking” over an issue which should be bipartisan.
“I hope that all politicians, including National Party politicians, see the suite of firearms reforms as a once-in-a-generation chance to rid our communities of assault weapons,” he said.
“We watch in disbelief how politics skews the gun debate in the United States.
“I am certain New Zealanders do not want to see our politicians go down the oft-trodden road of ignoring the role firearms play in mass shooting after mass shooting, and do nothing about reforming gun laws.”
Mr Bridges’ attempt to curry support as a tough-on-crime candidate was clear from his use of one well-rehearsed line on Wednesday.
The Tauranga MP referred to the need to rid guns from the hands of “crims, gangs and extremists” and not “law-abiding citizens” no fewer than seven times in seven minutes.
He’s declared himself a sceptic on a “costly” firearm register and called for the addition of Firearm Protection Orders in the next wave of proposals, which are yet to reach Cabinet.
Ms Ardern fell back on the support of the Police Association for her new laws.
“When the police are coming out strongly, saying this is exactly what we need to make New Zealand safer; I’d like to think the vast majority of New Zealanders, including law-abiding gun owners, would agree with that,” she said.
“Owning a gun in New Zealand is a privilege. It’s not a right.
“We’ve learned a hard lesson in New Zealand; I would hope that everyone will have learned it.”
The reforms followed the killing of 51 people in the Christchurch mosque shootings last March, allegedly undertaken by Australian Brenton Tarrant who faces trial in May.