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Govt considering Firearms Prohibition Orders - Police set for wider powers

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 11 Nov 2019, 3:39PM

Govt considering Firearms Prohibition Orders - Police set for wider powers

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 11 Nov 2019, 3:39PM

Wide police powers are being considered to prevent dangerous people from having firearms, being in a home that has firearms, or being in the company of people with firearms.

Those powers might also enable police to search a certain property and confiscate firearms without a warrant.

Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPO) would give police such powers, and Police Minister Stuart Nash has today released a discussion document seeking public feedback.

Nash and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will outline the proposal during the post-Cabinet press conference at 3.30pm.

FPOs would be issued for high-risk people with a history of violent offending, gun crimes or family harm.

This would include not only gang members, but also people with extremist views or a history of abuse.

Key issues include human rights concerns including freedom of movement, freedom of association, the presumption of innocence and the right to be free from unreasonable search.

"FPOs would prevent people from being around others who have firearms, using them without supervision, or being at a location that enables access to guns," Nash said.

That would mean someone under an FPO could commit a criminal offence by living in or visiting the home of a family member who legally has firearms at the home, or being in a car with hunting mates who have firearms in the vehicle, or being in the company of a friend who is legally carrying a firearm.

"They could not go hunting even under supervision. They could still associate with lawful gun owners, but not if a firearm is present," Nash said.

Someone under Firearms Prohibition Orders may not be legally allowed to have guns, be on a property with guns, or be in the company of people with guns. Photo / Amber Allott

Someone under Firearms Prohibition Orders may not be legally allowed to have guns, be on a property with guns, or be in the company of people with guns. Photo / Amber Allott

Police would be able to investigate someone subject to an FPO, including searching their property and confiscating firearms, parts and ammunition.

Other key issues for public feedback include what conviction would make a person eligible for an FPO, whether police should have FPO search powers without a warrant, how long FPOs should apply for, and what the penalties there should be for breaching conditions.

Warrantless searches under an FPO may not be necessary, given that they are already allowed under the Search and Surveillance Act for emergency situations including to prevent the commissioning of an offence, to protect life or property, or to prevent injury or harm.

Allowing police to issue FPOs themselves could open them to accusations of abuse of power, or being unduly influenced by conscious or unconscious bias.

Police Association president Chris Cahill, who supports FPOs as another tool in the public safety kit, said requiring a judge to sign-off FPOs would be one way of addressing those issues, as well as the human rights concerns.

The increasing use of firearms has been a police concern for some time, and one factor in the police trial of special armed police vehicles on routine patrol in three police districts.

Nash said that police had seized 1600 firearms since March this year from property searches, vehicle stops and family harm callouts.

The number of firearms stolen in burglaries has also increased significantly in the past 10 years; 440 were stolen in 2010, compared to 771 in 2018.

FPOs are legal in three Australian states, where hundreds are issued every year. However, New Zealand police believe only about 20 would be issued every year.

Green Party justice spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said the party had concerns and would monitor feedback before deciding whether to back FPOs.

"For example, warrantless search powers - we know that police abuses of power are disproportionately used against Māori and Pasifika, so any rights breaches being made lawful via this change are likely to be most abusive of those communities."

But the Government may not need the Greens' support to give police FPO powers.

The National Party has pushed a member's bill for FPOs that focused on gangs, but the Government has rejected it as too narrow - most recently in April this year.

Police Association president Chris Cahill supports Firearms Prohibition Orders. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Police Association president Chris Cahill supports Firearms Prohibition Orders. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Cahill said the government proposal was better as it targeted a dangerous person rather than the person's associations.

"Violent criminals are not just gang members."

FPOs have been wanted by the Police Association for some time and have been debated in Parliament since 2014.

Cahill said the work on FPOs, like all the work on gun law reform, had taken too long but he was pleased that FPOs were now being looked at.

Feedback can be sent to [email protected] or via this webpage.

 

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