President's Column: Firearms are a deadly serious matter

NZPA - Chris Cahill | Sun April 2nd, 2017

I am a late and somewhat reluctant user of social media, but that hasn’t protected me from the darker side of the online world.

In short, I have been trolled.

I suspect that further unwelcome attention is a possibility as I continue to spearhead the Association’s factual commentary on the law and order issues that affect our members. It seems to be a by-product of our times, and the job.

The issue that caused the recent online ire against me was firearms control. Love them or hate them, firearms generate very strong opinions.

They also have a very strong presence in our society. I am briefed daily about our members being either confronted with firearms or finding them in situations that could easily turn deadly.

In several cases, it has simply been good luck that a member has not been seriously injured or killed.

There are practical measures that can reduce the ability of criminals to obtain firearms and it would be remiss of me to downplay the seriousness of this issue.

The nature of some of the social media commentary made it clear that certain sections of New Zealand believe they have a right to possess firearms – all sorts of firearms. Many of these weapons have no purpose beyond the personal satisfaction of owning them. They are not useful for sports hunting, which many Kiwis, myself included, enjoy.

Yet it is often just these types of firearms that end up in the hands of criminals, thereby increasing the level of danger to both our members and the general public.

Gun ownership is not a right; it is a privilege and this is made clear through the “fit and proper person test” contained within the Arms Act.

The Association is not advocating onerous or costly changes to that act, and when I discuss registration of weapons with gun users they have no issue with that as a fair compromise between gun ownership and responsibilities.

We are now waiting for the Law and Order Select Committee to report on its inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms in New Zealand, and we are looking for meaningful change.

The proliferation of firearms is a threat to the safety of all of us, and I will continue to speak out on that because it is a deadly serious matter.

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