Wednesday, July 1, 2009

LEGAL STATUS OF PISTOL GRIPS AND THUMBHOLE STOCKS

In my view the meaning of “military pattern free standing pistol grip” (as parliament intended) is a pistol type grip that is free standing by design and manufacture and does not require any additional structural support to maintain its own integrity and is not an integral component of the butt-stock. This means if you fit an aluminium bar between the butt stock and pistol grip base of a military rifle, such as the example M16 below, then you still have a “military pattern free standing pistol grip”. Although it has been modified with a bar, by design and manufacture it is still a “military pattern free standing pistol grip.”

Examples of military pattern free standing pistol grip and non military pattern non free standing pistol grips and thumbhole stocks.

Addition of an aluminium bridging bar does not change the base structure.

Figure 1 – MSSA

Fore-end maybe military pattern free standing pistol grip. (note: rear pistol grip does not qualify as a military pattern free standing pistol grip as it is supported by the trigger guard).

Figure 2 - MSSA? (arguably) MSSA for other reasons (flash suppressor, 30 rnd mag)

Factory designed and manufactured thumbhole stock - integral component of the butt-stock.

Figure 3 - NON MSSA

Pistol grip is designed and manufactured as a structural part of the overall stock. It is not free standing, and relies on the stock for its structural integrity.
Figure 4 - NON MSSA

Pistol grip is designed and manufactured as a structural part of the overall stock. It is not free standing, and relies on the stock for its structural integrity.

Figure 5 - NON MSSA

Pistol grip is designed and manufactured as a structural part of the overall stock. It is not free standing, and relies on the stock for its structural integrity.

Figure 6 - NON MSSA

Why have pistol grips at all? – Well the NZ Police would have us believe that its purpose is so the firearm can be used as an assault weapon (See Superintendent McLeod’s advisory [copy on the sidebar]). Let’s set aside the dramatic thespian police stuff for a moment and examine the real facts. The stock design on modern semi-automatic firearms is focussed on bringing the butt-stock recoil pad into a straight line with the barrel of the firearm. This prevents lift of the barrel end when the firearm is discharged; allowing the operator to fire follow up shots without losing focus on the target. Compare a traditional stock and the butt-stock recoil pad is below the level of the barrel. So if anything, the functionality of the modern semi-automatic rifle and any additional capability it may have to be deployed as an assault rifle is in fact borne out of the alignment of the barrel and the butt-stock, not the fact that it has a pistol grip. In the real world, the alignment of the barrel and butt stock is a safety feature to allow clean, accurate, repeated fire. The problem of course with aligning the barrel with the butt stock is the design does not allow a thumb position extending over the top of the stock (in the traditional style)… hence the evolution of the pistol grip and thumbhole stocks on modern semi-automatic rifles. Unfortunately the science behind the evolution seems to have escaped the Police executive.

The Police can’t seriously expect that there will be no development and technology in firearms. Just as the modern carbon fibre fly-rod has surpassed fibreglass, which in turn surpassed split-cane, so also has composite thermoplastic and carbon-fibre surpassed the old traditional stock material; wood. New materials mean new colours, SL8s were initially grey, at the moment the fashion is black, camo also features strongly, but who-knows somewhere sometime there will probably be a girl’s gun done in brilliant pink. New stock designs improve safety and efficiency. Old desk-bound guys like me can carry a lightweight plastic SL8 further than a traditional heavy rifle. They’re more weather proof and easier to maintain – my SL8 is the only semi I’ve ever owned that I can (and always do) rod-clean from the action end of he barrel – 2 screws & 1 pin and the butt stock is off and the barrel exposed.

The intention of the MSSA laws as I recall the debate back in the early 90’s was to prevent people owning firearms that cosmetically looked like assault rifles. This of course is where the word “style” (second letter of M[S]SA) comes from. Further evidence of this is seen in the magazine clause – “a magazine that is capable of holding, or that, by its appearance, indicates that it is capable of holding” more than 7 rounds. The desire of Police to prevent ordinary folk toting around black sinister looking semi’s bristling with aggressive looking tactical gear is understandable but there is also the small matter of the law, made by Parliament, to which we all have to account. If the Police want to change the law they need to talk to our government; a predetermined chat among their collective executive self’s is not the correct procedure. I would have expected better from the organisation charged with ensuring that the law is upheld.

One also has to ask the question – if the Police are correct in their “classification” then what is a legal non-mssa pistol grip on a semi-automatic firearm? It would seem obvious that there isn’t one. Which begs the question – If there is no legal pistol grip option available to a semi-automatic firearm why doesn’t the Arms Act simply state that instead of saying “military pattern free standing pistol grip”? It is hard to imagine a more blatant attempt to misinterpret the law. A good analogy would be legislation that says you are not allowed to drive a six-wheeled vehicle on a public road, and the Police then ordering all cars off the road because they have four wheels, a spare and a steering wheel.

What does all that mean? Well in a nutshell it means the reasoning behind the Police agenda about pistol grips is based on emotive speculation and ignorance that has no sound science behind it. There is no evidence in the advisory of any independant research or field testing in regard to so called - "assault weapon" capability. The Police may have a 'legal opinion' from the Crown law office... as I'm sure they did in PSI (NZ) INC v Commissioner of Police, HC, Christchurch 23rd August 1991, Tipping J. It also means that the Police classification is ultra vires and in contradiction with statue law (or for non-wordsmiths) – “its all bollocks”.

Additionally none of the firearms MSSA or not, regardless of stock design or pistol grip, can be deployed as assault rifles in New Zealand because that would be illegal. Only criminals, acting outside the law would try and use any firearm as an assault weapon and the criminals aren’t going to front up to their local arms dealer and buy a traditional stock and retrofit it to their stolen AK47 assault weapon because the Police issue an advisory.

What might be a better approach is for the Police to spend less time reviewing and writing advisory’s and more time chasing the criminals that are not supposed to have firearms. Maybe then they will bring on board the very group of responsible law abiding firearms owners that they need to work with to ensure arms safety and security instead of disenfranchising, alienating and antagonising them.

A responsible firearms owner

Please leave your comments by clicking on the comments link below

8 comments:

Gary said...

I'm not sure that the notion of a fore-grip being any kind of "pistol grip" holds water.

Surely, a "pistol grip" must bear some resemblance to the grip of a pistol. To my mind, this means that it is - among other things - a grip for the trigger-hand, adjacent to the trigger.

A fore-grip is not a pistol grip, it's just a grip.

Anonymous said...

Your possibly right but I wouldnt feel 'safe' asserting that as a defence in a criminal proceeding. Who would want to own AUG anyway? If they couldnt prosecute you for having an MSSA they'd charge you with being in possession and control of the ugliest firearm ever built.

R ;)

Spiker . said...

I also don't believe a fore grip is a military pattern free standing pistol grip as you then get into the discussion of what constitutes a fore-grip.

Is a bipod a fore-grip therefore a military pattern free standing pistol grip? It could be held in the same way as a fore-grip, (there is even bipod/fore-grip combination) still dosn't make one but in the mood the police seem to be in I'm sure they would like to do away with bipods on semi autos as well.

Anonymous said...

Yep, agree with the comments on fore grips, sometimes referred to as forward vertical grips or just "vert grips". This new definition could capture the use of bipods as well which is simply ludicrous. Remember there are also fore grips that have a bipod function such as the "Grip Pod", where does it all end?
Police need to be discouraged from making further nonsensical interpretations of the Arms Act definitions.

Anonymous said...

if we all don't collectively fight this in court, then its going to be an open field for the police to bring on the next lot of draconian policies on liscenced, law abiding firearms owners.

Anonymous said...

Spot on.

It should not even matter how the gun is held. A gun is a gun.

Police is taking this too far. As you said, pistol grips only exist so the stock can be higher up and inline with the barrel. (Reduces muzzle climb caused by "moments")

Anonymous said...

You have my support.

These actions by the Police serves the public no good.

Wilco said...

I voted No. I'll be clear on that. I agree in principle on the opposition to this new 'reinterpretation'. But being the person that I am, I like people to carefully consider all the angles and think about things in a different way.
If Police are required to convene with the Govt if they want to change a law, so be it. But in this case, honestly, I dont think they are changing any laws. 'Reinterpret' is just that. The majority of our argument about the senselessness of MSSA rules is really a moot point. The introduction of the new E license class and classification of MSSA's is a done deal. Its all over. We missed the boat on preventing that. So there isnt so much sense in stating the obvious by saying how illogical the police were in their reasons for introducing it.
The point I making is, if you wanted to describe what a military pattern free standing pistol is, then those are practically the best choice of words anyway. Trying to adjoin the bottom of the grip to something (weather at home with wire, or by design in the ATI stock factory), just so it is no longer 'free standing' is just a not so cunning way of trying to bypass the law by way of its wording, which is not entirely successful, because its still a military pattern pistol grip. Personaly, and I think some of you will agree, I was suprised this even flew in the first place, and most of us knew, it wouldn't last forever.
If the police want to crack down on enforcing a law thats already in place, no amount of public outcry will stop them. However, since I know many of you are already fuming at me, I am also not prepare just to roll over and accept this, because it just gives the NZP the impetus to make roads into the introduction of more control legislation, with their insidious eventual goals of taking away what we love. That is what I really hate, and that is why Id like to support Richard Lincoln, COLFO, and others who are making personal sacrifices to ensure our sport and hobby survives.