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.
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.
“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.