President's Column: An instant political fix

Vol. 48, No. 10 | NZPA | Sat October 31st, 2015

It is amazing to see how something that is one day not a problem can 24 hours later be a significant issue that requires an instant political fix.

The Association has been warning for some time about the ease of purchasing firearms online, both legally and illegally, but we were reassured that the crime statistics revealed there was no issue.

Even the Police Minister assured the Police Association Conference last month that the recent spike in firearms incidents involving police was just a statistical blip and there was no need for the sort of inquiry into the Arms Act that we were requesting.

That evening, TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan disclosed how she had been able to buy a firearm by mail order illegally and have it delivered to her.

Next morning, there was a problem and a policy change, presumably well considered overnight, that now all sighted and signed mail order purchase orders need to be posted by Police to firearms dealers.

The problem is, Police policy change or not, the law does not require that to occur, and a district court finding in the case of the Russianz website confirmed it.

The smart dealers will obey the new policy until the dust settles again, but there will be no law change.

And it won’t stop people such as Peter Edwards, a licensed owner, who bought more than 70 firearms over 18 months, modified them by cutting them down and adding pistol grips and silencers, and then onsold them to the Head Hunters. And he did so without anyone noticing.

Changes to stop such behaviour, and other measures necessary to reduce the likelihood of the wrong people getting firearms, will happen only when the politicians are motivated – probably in response to a mass shooting.

We need an inquiry into the effectiveness of the legislation and the way it is enforced.

The Association has spoken to key players in the firearms industry suggesting to them that it is in their best interests for such an inquiry to take place before a mass shooting occurs.

We have written to the Police Minister and the Commissioner requesting such an inquiry.

TV3’s current affairs programme Story exposed just one of the failings of the system, by committing a technical fraud. I hope it doesn’t take a mass murder to expose the others.

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