President's Column: Firearms inquiry significant

NZPA - Greg O'Connor | Fri April 1st, 2016

Achieving cross-party political consensus is never easy, so the announcement that the Police Minister, the Labour police spokesperson Stuart Nash and the Greens agree that we need the inquiry the Association has been calling for, into the proliferation of firearms in the hands of criminals, was significant.

We have been predicting for some time that it would take a mass shooting of some sort to bring to public attention what our frontline troops have been telling us for a couple of years; that every two-bit crook they encounter either has possession of, or easy access to, an illegal firearm.

That mass shooting occurred in Onepu Springs, near Kawarau, when four AOS members were shot in one incident. Fortunately, none were fatally wounded, but it will be a long recovery for some. We wish them all well and will assist all we can.

The fact that there was a large seizure of MSSAs just days later, another haul in Hawke’s Bay and two shooting homicides the same week added weight to our concerns about firearm possession and use.

It’s interesting that the observations and experiences of the troops around emerging policing issues don’t seem to get picked up in the stats or attract the attention of policymakers until it hits the front pages of the papers. It was the same with methamphetamine, when it wasn’t till the middle-class kids of Remuera started having problems that it was accepted there was an issue. The child abuse investigation backlog was ignored until it hit the front pages, and poor Iraena Asher had to go missing before problems at comms were addressed with a $45 million injection.

We now have a select committee investigation into firearms and I am confident the committee members will be shocked at how easy it has become to acquire these weapons.

The Association brought to public attention the ease with which guns could be bought illegally through mail order, a loophole that was not closed until TV3 picked it up and highlighted the issue, albeit in a legally dubious manner. It did shut down that avenue, but there are others.

So what is the next issue that will take everyone but our troops by surprise when it spills over into public arena?

Gangs and organised crime – their sphere of intimidation is growing beyond their traditional patches and they are expanding their business model across the country. Watch this space.

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