The report of the Law and Order Select Committee into the illegal possession of firearms in New Zealand has missed the target says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).
The report has largely disregarded the purpose for which it was set up (criminal use of firearms), along with the vast majority of the submissions and quality research.
Earlier this year the Prime Minister, Bill English announced the Safer Communities package which will result in additional police, an announcement welcomed by RWNZ. Also welcomed by RWNZ was yesterday’s announcement of an extra 20 police stations around the country being ramped up to a 24/7 police presence over the next four years. It is hoped that these additional resources will benefit communities.
Rachael Dean, RWNZ National Finance Chair says, “it is extremely disappointing that measures focusing on criminals have been largely ignored by the Select Committee but a law abiding shotgun or 22 owner can have their premises entered by Police without notice, and without a shred of evidence that the person has ever committed, or planned to commit a crime. However, the ability for the Police to do this is a recommendation of the Select Committee," says RWNZ national finance chair Rachael Dean.
RWNZ believes that by continuing the focus on non-criminals, the Select Committee recommends a range of changes that will add to the cost and paperwork of licensed firearms owners. None of the recommendations are costed but it should be noted that expensive measures targeting non-criminals reduce Police budgets for other more pressing matters - such as increased police resources in rural areas.
“Changes such as needing a permit to procure for the sale or transfer of all firearms means four trips to an already under-resourced police station to be able to borrow a neighbour’s or fellow rifle club member's .22 or shotgun,” says Rachael.
“Clearly the Select Committee believe rural people have nothing better to do then spend their days, at considerable cost, traveling on hilly, windy, gravel roads to carry out simple transactions. I doubt if the criminals using the sawn-off shot-guns referred to in the report will be bothering with permits to procure.”
Other recommendations focus on having dealers keep records of all ammunition sold. "Aside from creating thousands of business records and adding to dealers costs, costs which be passed onto shooters, all this will achieve is a record of dealers selling ammunition to licence holders. There is no logical reason why this would prevent criminals having access to firearms," says Rachael Dean.
RWNZ asserts that not only does the report largely ignore criminal use of firearms but also treats law-abiding people as criminals.
"Where there is a focus on criminals is via suggestions that would legislate criminals into existence. As would be the case if for example, all the .22 calibre semi-automatic rifle, and semi auto shotgun owners suddenly found they now owned an “E” category firearm instead of an “A” category," says Rachael.
RWNZ suggests the Select Committee abandons the imposition of onerous, expensive, ineffective compliance on the law-abiding. RWNZ also suggests the Select Committee turn their thinking to their stated purpose and take an evidence-based approach to focusing on criminals also on criminal activities that are known to be associated with firearms, such as drugs.