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New Zealanders urged to wake up to our country's gun problem

23 August 2017

NZ Police Association urges New Zealanders to wake up to our country's gun problem

The Police Association is calling on New Zealanders and their politicians to wake up to the consequences of the proliferation of illegal firearms throughout the country.

Association President Chris Cahill said the latest survey of Association members makes for very sobering reading with respect to the impact illegal firearms are having within our communities, and therefore on policing.

“It requires remarkable bravery to put on the Police uniform and go to work every day knowing you may be staring down the barrel of a gun. That should be widely considered as unacceptable in a country like New Zealand, and yet, unfortunately we are now regularly reminded that it appears relatively easy to access all sorts of weapons,” Mr Cahill said.

The 2017 Police Association Member Survey, conducted by research company Nielsen, shows a 38% increase in the number of police officers threatened with a firearm in the last two years.

“One in eight (12%) of the Constabulary has been threatened with a firearm at least once in the last year. For frontline officers that figure grows to one in five - 21%, being threatened at least once in the last year,” Mr Cahill said.

“What makes this even more concerning is that the survey shows one in three members (36%) who have been threatened with firearms in the past year have not reported every incident.”

While the Association receives almost daily reports of firearms presented or found, it is generally the high profile incidents such as last month’s Whangarei fatal shootings and the Morrinsville near-miss shooting at three police officers on August 14, that make the headlines.

“I think that gives a false impression of the level of actual danger for everyday New Zealanders as well as for officers. The truth is we are very lucky that these officers in Morrinsville were not seriously injured or killed,” Mr Cahill said.

“For that reason I ask New Zealanders to read the following chilling message. It was sent to me by a police officer the morning after the gunman in Morrinsville opened fire with a barrage of ammunition from a military style semi-automatic (MSSA) initially on an unarmed officer, and then on his two back-up officers.”

“Hi boss,

I just want you to know that it is heart breaking when you hear an officer yelling in the radio I got shot at, I am not armed 10-10, 10-10.

When are we gonna get armed to have proper equipment to protect ourselves against offenders’ real firearms?

When you’re out and about, you cannot say to an offender, “hey, give me a sec, don’t shoot me yet, let me unlock my gun from the lockbox first.”

Do we have to wait until one or more of us is shot dead, then start pushing for arming police?

I just do not want to see one of us shot dead on duty while the guns stay inside the lockbox.

Thanks for your time.”

“Naturally the survey results, combined with the raw emotion and frustration in messages, such as the one above, turn the focus to whether New Zealand has reached the critical point where frontline officers should be armed at all times,” Mr Cahill said.

“While general arming has been the policy of the Association for some time, we note that support amongst the general public has increased slightly in the last two years and now sits at 55%, according to a recent Nielsen survey. Police officer support for general arming is significantly higher at 66% in favour - up from 62% in the 2015 survey.”

“If New Zealand is not ready for a radical cultural change in policing, then we must all take seriously the reality of weapons in our communities and demand our politicians pledge to undertake serious, meaningful changes to our gun laws,” Mr Cahill said.

“There is no doubt in our thinking that there needs to be a revisit of the recommendations of the Select Committee Inquiry into issues relating into the illegal possession of firearms in New Zealand.”

“Critics may say that horse has bolted. Reality argues otherwise.” Mr Cahill said.

A selection of firearms incidents from around the country reported to the Association over the last few months:

Whanganui: Dog track led officers to address following burglary; located .22 rifle with ammunition and loaded and actioned SKS 5 shot semi-automatic 7.62 rifle (same calibre of rifle used in Morrinsville shootings in mid-August); occupants patched Mongrel Mob.

Flaxmere: Unarmed marked police car locates male with rifle (with scope) near public park; police vehicle reverses back and officer yells at schoolchildren to take cover behind police car; officer convinces male to drop weapon. Sergeant on duty listening to incident initially feared incident would result in police shooting.

Manurewa: Aggravated robbery of Superette; shots fired; took cash register and other items; police pursuit located vehicle with three offenders; offender in back seat fired at police with cut-down .22; offenders later arrested and firearm recovered with live round in chamber.

Waitemata: Legitimate gun licence holder identified as buying large numbers of firearms (mostly .22 rifles and pump action shotguns and rifles later cut down into pistol format) and selling/swapping for meth. When police check the sales from the gun store, licence holder reports firearms “stolen” from his home. Detective Sergeant in charge says, “We need a national register to flag firearms licence holders who buy large amounts of firearms in short spaces of time.”

Christchurch: During a gang tenant eviction two loaded pistols recovered.

Invercargill: Routine traffic stop; five illegal firearms located, four of which were loaded with rounds in the chambers ready to fire.

Kawerau: Search at known gang associate house; .223 rifle, 100+ rounds of ammunition, 100 rounds of 12g ammunition, 20 shot .223 magazine located; occupant not licensed gun owner.

Counties Manukau: Offenders on property threaten to kill occupant/victim/ fired several rounds including into victim’s vehicle/ struck her with rifle butt/ shell casings identified as from shotguns.

Palmerston North: Unarmed officers respond to reports of shots fired; approach address where male opens the door holding cut down firearm with one round in chamber and 3 in magazine; officers persuaded male to drop weapon; 10g of meth also located.

Onehunga: Routine traffic stop; officer observed pistol protruding on floor by drivers’ seat; retreated to patrol car and armed up with partner; made armed arrest and located sawn off shotgun and .22 revolver.

Manurewa: Suspect vehicle pursued and spiked; car crashed and male occupant presented shotgun at unarmed officers who retreated.

Counties Manukau: Search of a residential address revealed sawn-off shotgun with two rounds in it located under the bed offender was in, and a modified military-style semi-automatic firearm in the garage.

Christchurch: During a search warrant on a suburban address related to a burglary, police found a .44 cut down pistol grip rifle and 51 rounds of ammunition.


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