'Lip service' gun law sneaks in

Author
John Weekes, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Dec 2021, 8:38PM
"This is really about serious offenders, and dealing with the most serious of crimes," Police Minister Poto Williams said today. Photo / Mark Mitchell
"This is really about serious offenders, and dealing with the most serious of crimes," Police Minister Poto Williams said today. Photo / Mark Mitchell

'Lip service' gun law sneaks in

Author
John Weekes, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Dec 2021, 8:38PM

Opposition parties have fired volleys at a new gun control bill introduced on Parliament's last sitting day. 

Minister of Police Poto Williams said the new Firearms Prohibition Order Legislation Bill will tackle firearms violence and the impact of gun-related mayhem on communities. 

The bill aimed to stop people who presented "a high risk of violence", or what it called an underlying risk of violence, from accessing restricted weapons. 

Act's Nicole McKee said the new bill was a sluggish response to an issue that should've been remedied months ago. 

She said the Government voted down National MP Simeon Brown's Firearms Prohibition Orders Bill earlier this year. 

Brown's bill aimed to give police more powers to stop gang members getting guns - but the Government argued that bill was so poorly drafted it barely made sense. 

McKee today said she suspected the bill Williams introduced was about Labour playing politics and stoking egos. 

"The Government is paying lip service to people. Communities want action." 

The new firearms bill would include a firearms registry to be set up from mid-2023 to help police better trace firearms. 

McKee said some legitimate firearms owners had lost trust in the Government and the new bill might nurture more suspicion from that community. 

Poto Williams says the new bill will ban "high-risk offenders" from accessing, being around, or using firearms and ammunition magazines. Photo / Supplied 

Williams said Labour had taken time to work on the new firearms bill, which was in good shape. 

"Simeon's bill only had gang members with convictions. This is really about serious offenders, and dealing with the most serious of crimes," the minister said this afternoon. 

Williams said Firearms Prohibition Orders would restrict some serious offenders from having firearms for 10 years. 

She could not immediately say what those serious offences were, but said ultimately judges would have some discretion to impose the orders. 

Williams added: "Let's not forget this Government has done quite a lot of work ... We've taken 60,000 military-style semi-automatics out of the system." 

On registered gun owners, she said: "If they are law-abiding citizens, they have nothing to fear from us." 

National's police spokesman Mark Mitchell said firearms prohibition orders were recommended in 2017 and the new bill was toothless. 

"The Government sat on this for seven months with no action." 

He said the Government only mentioned the new bill after he lodged a question, which prompted Labour to issue a press release. 

Mitchell said Williams was disengaged and seemed to have no interest in supporting police. 

Police were already stretched, he said, and Williams' bill was no help. 

He said police could have used additional powers over the summer holidays to tackle growing firearms violence. 

The Herald last month revealed police had stripped six gang members of firearms licences this year, in a test of new powers under changed gun laws. 

Under the Arms Act, police can now consider if one is a gang or organised crime group member or affiliate when deciding if that person is "fit and proper" to hold a firearms licence.