Arms Legislation Bill - guidance to make an oral submission

Many of our supporters who have made a written submission to the Select Committee are now being asked to present orally. With the help of our lawyers, who include a former MP and a senior Ministerial staffer, we have provided the following tips to make your submission count.

You can read COLFO's written submission here, and supplementary submission here.


Many of our supporters who have made a written submission to the Select Committee are now being asked to present orally.

With the help of our lawyers, who include a former MP and a senior Ministerial staffer, we have provided the following tips to make your submission count.

The Select Committee is likely to only give you 5 or 10 minutes, so the key things to keep in mind are:

  • Don’t read your submission out – the MPs have it in front of them
  • Introduce who you are and why firearms play a role in your life
  • If you have been allocated 5 minutes, pick only the most important thing from your submission and relate it to your real life. If you have 10 minutes, select two or three important things and do the same.
  • Allow and encourage MPs to ask you questions – you want to allow at least a couple of minutes for this.

Former MP, Stephen Franks, who sat on the Select Committee in the early 2000s that looked at gun legislation has prepared the following advice:

That was the last time there was a major government attempt to import US-style antagonism between firearms owners and other New Zealanders. By 2002 the Select Committee told the Government the Bill should not proceed. The Labour Cabinet was annoyed, and surprised. But they could not ignore their own members’ conclusions.

One of that Committee’s MPs has said –

We started out thinking the consultation was just a formality, most of us would have voted for the Bill. By the time we’d learned from the community, almost every one of us thought the Bill was too dumb to be rescued, even if we tried to amend it. It would have damaged a system that was working well.

Who should present in person?

Think about the prejudices and misconceptions the Select Committee will have.

Many MPs have been encouraged to ignore gun users, as “not like them”. They’ll listen much more carefully to people who surprise them, by not being crusty old guys. The same information will get different attention, depending on who presents it. Whether we like it or not, information on firearms use may be absorbed better if it comes from:

  • A woman
  • Someone young
  • Someone with obvious relevant experience, like a farmer (especially a wife or daughter)
  • People used to community service, recognised for caring about others
  • A successful competitor
  • Kaumatua
  • People who might not usually take much interest in formal law processes but who know personally how this law might criminalise, say, their family members
  • People who have volunteered to keep clubs or shooting ranges going
  • People whose occupations depend on good law

We’re not saying don’t bother if you aren’t in those categories – just that if you have a choice about who fronts up – go for the person most likely to get the Committee curious or respectful. You know what we mean. It can be important.

Think carefully before spouting dogma – the Committee will have heard lots before

Obviously, if you passionately believe that New Zealand should have US Constitution Second Amendment rights, you have a right to put your view. But do not expect to be influential.

That is not the view of many COLFO supporters. You could be wasting time that would be much more effectively spent on practical details of the Bill.

Abstract statements of principle get no traction in front of Select Committees. They tend to be used by adversaries on the Committee to grandstand to the media by making it plain that they disagree.

Be respectful and courteous.

The Committee did not draft the Bill. You may be disgusted. But even if the Labour members agree with you, they won’t be able to show it. Just stay good mannered.

That does not mean you have to pretend it is not vitally important. You can be passionate – just not offensive. Don’t expect to persuade if you turn up in your full Rambo gear. It will just confirm prejudices. Dress conservatively.