Police Minister Paula Bennett has put the public and front-line police officers in danger after rejecting recommendations to tighten firearm controls, the Police Association says.
Association president Chris Cahill said Ms Bennett had rejected every meaningful recommendation put forward by the law and order select committee, and had “appeared to bow to the pressure of the gun lobby”.
“The minister’s concern about over the top rules and restrictions on hunters and shooters ignores the reality that New Zealand is awash with firearms and the majority of them are stolen.”
Ms Bennett yesterday responded to the report on illegal firearms, accepting only seven of 20 recommendations designed to stop criminals getting their hands on guns.
Recommendations ac-cepted include bringing in firearm prohibition orders, and to review penalties in the Arms Act. The Government will also clarify that gang members or prospects must not be considered “fit and proper” to possess firearms.
Firearm prohibition orders are used with varying conditions in three Australian States and are mostly targeted at motorcycle gangs, including the Hells Angels and Rebels.
In New South Wales, anyone served with a firearm prohibition order faces heavy penalties for possessing firearms, cannot knowingly be in the company of people with firearms, and cannot knowingly reside at or visit a location where there are firearms.
Bennett rejected most recommendations from the select committee’s near year-long inquiry. The committee inquiry had caused concern among some gun owners and widespread changes would have been a controversial issue in election year.
Rejected recommendations include requiring police to record serial numbers of all firearms upon renewal of licence or inspection, requiring a licence to possess ammunition, and making dealers keep records of ammunition sales.
Ms Bennett also declined to act on the recommendation to investigate the creation of a category of restricted semi-automatic rifle and shotgun.
Federated Farmers national board member Katie Milne said the rejected recommendations would have done little to stop firearms getting into the hands of criminals.
“The farming community is frustrated with poorly thought out solutions to real problems that simply burden law abiding citizens,” Ms Milne said.
“We are pleased to see the Government has listened and is directing attention to where it should be.”
Labour’s police spokesman Stuart Nash said he believed Ms Bennett had “got it 100% right”, and backed the same recommendations he had come to believe were needed.
As a member of the select committee he had received a large amount of feedback after the recommendations were released, including through public meetings. Mr Nash said he came to realise many of the recommendations would not help keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
He said in documents obtained by Labour under the Official Information Act police had admitted officers’ understanding of the law around firearms was lacking, and this came down to a lack of funding.
Act leader David Seymour said it was a relief to learn Bennett would reject most recommendations, that went “far beyond” targeting illegal gun possession.
Ms Bennett said the committee report was well intended, but she thought many recommendations would unduly affect legal firearm users.
“Nobody wants firearms getting into the hands of violent gang members but we also don’t want over-the-top rules and restrictions to be placed on hunters and shooters who manage their firearms responsibly.”
Ms Bennett announced two additional Government recommendations, includ-ing the power to suspend licences pending a decision on revocation, and for police to improve consultation with the firearms community.
She said further consultation would be carried out before Cabinet is asked for approval on changes later this year.