Mass walkout at Youth Parliament after firearms speech

Source: 1News

More than half of this year’s Youth MPs walked out of the debating chamber in response to a fellow participant’s speech on gun rights at Youth Parliament on Wednesday.

The walkout was planned before the speech by 10 to 15 Youth MPs. It was initiated by Will Irvine who knew Youth MP Matthew Fisken would speak about gun rights for his general debate speech.

Fisken, representing ACT MP and former Council of Licensed Firearms Owners spokesperson Nicole McKee, talked about the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms and criticised the government’s gun buyback scheme following the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks.

Fisken said the new firearms regulations the Government wanted to implement would "only continue to unfairly punish law-abiding licensed firearms owners like myself".

"The Government had the opportunity to enact positive and meaningful legislation that would have kept our communities safe. Instead, they chose to pass legislation that would prohibit a wide range of firearms."

Fisken then pointed to the fact it was later found that it was police errors that led to the terrorist being wrongly granted a firearms licence, as reported by Stuff.

He said the way to decrease gun violence was to introduce legislation that targeted criminals, not licensed gun owners.

The Government recently introduced a suite of new rules to target gangs, including harsher punishments for those who fired a gun to intimidate.

Youth MPs walk out of the debating chamber during Youth MP Matthew Fisken's speech.

Shortly after the speech commenced, MPs from across the house stood and left the chamber.

Irvine, the representative for Labour MP Rachel Boyack, said he made the initial decision to walk out because he felt “uncomfortable” about the speech’s subject matter.

“I feel uncomfortable about the way that this person has engaged… yesterday in the general debate around the March 15 attacks… just generally very poor form," Irvine said.

“It’s a very valid decision… to respect someone’s freedom of speech and to stay there, but it’s an equally valid decision to leave when you feel uncomfortable with the comments that someone’s making.”

Layba Zubair, the Youth MP representing Trevor Mallard, said the walkout was not a “stunt”, but a condemnation of the content of the speech.

“The speech dishonoured the victims of the terrorist attack, and as someone who’s lost people from that attack, it felt like an insult,” Zubair said.

Fisken’s speech was the first one of the second day of general debate, which saw Youth Parliament participants speak for three minutes on an issue important to them.

Fewer than 50 Youth MPs remained in the chamber at the conclusion of Fisken’s speech.

One of them, National MP Louise Upston's representative Sophia Goodrich, said she didn’t leave because she was “in shock”.

“If I had known what was going to happen, I would have walked out too.”

Fisken called the reaction to his speech "unfortunate".

"I think it probably reflects more poorly on those that walked out, that they didn’t have the maturity to respectfully stay," he said.

"I did think it was slightly rude."

Fisken admitted he could have introduced a content warning for mentions of the March 15 attacks.

“[Gun rights] is something I feel very strongly on. So, I guess from my perspective I maybe did not have the same understanding that other people may be shocked by it."

However, he said this hadn't changed anything, and he would “push harder” for his beliefs.

“Obviously, I know people may not agree with me, and that is fine. But, I do hope that in the future, maybe there will be a bit more respect.”