Punishment Of Licensed Firearms Owners Will Not Help Lower Crime Rates, Says COLFO

The Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO) says that punitive action from Police against legal firearms owners will not help reduce firearm thefts.

Recently, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster indicated in the annual select committee review that licensed firearms owners who have firearms stolen may be charged if Police decide the firearms were not adequately secured.

Police and licensed firearms owners in New Zealand have made good progress in reducing firearm theft, with 377 firearms stolen in 2021, down from 549 in 2020. COLFO spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack is worried that a growing punitive attitude towards licensed firearms owners will damage this progress.

“Police will work with gangs for better outcomes but punish licensed firearms owners because a criminal broke into their house and endangered their family” he says.

“Owners are doing their best to follow the myriad of restrictions already imposed on them. Police need to work with firearms owners, not against them, to ensure firearms are not ending up in the wrong hands. An environment of distrust is not conducive to safer communities.”

Police are aware of the length criminals will go to steal firearms. In April of 2019 when semi-automatic firearms were prohibited, 11 firearms handed in for destruction were stolen from a Police station in Palmerston North.[1]

As a result, Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement asked firearms owners to ‘be patient and hold onto their firearms’ while the police worked out how to safely store and destroy them.

“Mr Clement trusted legal firearms owners to store firearms more safely than the Police. Now Police are inherently distrustful of the same careful firearms owners” says Devereux-Mack.

Across the ditch, Victoria’s State Parliament are cementing the distrust of legal firearms owners in legislation. Police will have the authority to remove a firearm license for up to 10 years over a speeding ticket.[2]

“Licensed firearms owners are not the criminals these laws shape them as. The legislation will punish legal firearms owners more for the same crime as committed by non-firearms owners. Moreover, it assumes they deserve it.” says Devereux-Mack.

Hugh Devereux-Mack says New Zealand laws have been more sensible than those suggested in Australia but is worried that is slipping.

“Legislation of the sort proposed in Australia harms the relationship between licensed firearms owners and Police. Mr Coster should be mindful of falling into the same trap” he says.

“Licensed firearms owners are not criminals. Police and licensed firearm owners should be united in focus on stopping legally owned firearms from ending up in the wrong hands. It will take a combined effort from both parties to continue education on the safe storage of firearms and further reduce thefts.”

COLFO has previously shown that legislation directed at licensed firearms owners does not make New Zealanders safer. See the release here.

[1] https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/387983/theft-heightens-police-concern-on-securing-guns-before-disposal

[2] https://www.sportingshooter.com.au/latest/10-year-licence-ban-for-as-little-as-a-speeding-fine

The real story behind ‘firearms misinformation’ (COLFO media release)

8:02AM, 18 January 2022

The public is in fear of firearm violence because of deliberate misinformation, but the real story is that the 2021 statistics on firearms violence are no different to the previous three years.

President of the NZ Police Association Chris Cahill has claimed that ‘gang tensions and rising gun violence are contributing to homicide rates’.

The real story is that homicide rates are the lowest in four years, and that firearms violence is not rising and is currently on par with the previous three years.

COLFO spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack says the public is being deliberately misinformed by people who should know better.

“Firearms violence did not escalate in 2021, which shows that Mr Cahill and others are stoking firearms panic for their own ends, such as promoting general Police arming.”

But Devereux-Mack says the fact that firearm violence has not changed at all is concrete evidence that the government gun buyback did nothing to increase the safety of New Zealanders.

Cahill has also falsely claimed that “we’ve never had a gun register since the 1980’s”.

“We’ve had a register for restricted firearms since 1920, which includes handguns and military style firearms. Yet this failed to stop gang members using pistols during a shootout in November last year”

Devereux-Mack takes issue with Cahill’s claim that gun violence is a daily occurrence for police, as it gives the impression that criminals are pointing guns at police every day.

“Over the course of June 2020 to July 2021, Police only had guns presented at them 24 times. Contrast this with the 388 times Police presented firearms at members of the public in 2021, and Mr Cahill is presenting a very warped picture” says Devereux-Mack.

“Police aim firearms at citizens 16 times more than they have firearms aimed at them.”

“Additionally, quite often when Police encounter a firearm it turns out to be fake. Every time Police point a firearm at someone it’s real.”

Devereux-Mack says it is vital that we put a stop to the spread of firearms misinformation. He says policy or Police action influenced by such claims would be a disaster.

“Misinformation on such a serious matter is bad enough, yet it is made even worse because the false claims about the nature of firearms violence in New Zealand are being made by those in positions of influence.”

“If these claims were to inform policy decisions or the uptake of general Police arming it would be a disaster for the safety of New Zealanders” he says.

“Police on the streets with newly-acquired firearms, expecting to use them for protection and offense, would place all New Zealanders in danger.”