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Police Association Welcomes Long Overdue Tougher Gun Law

The New Zealand Police Association is both pleased and relieved that parliament has voted to pass into law the Arms Legislation Bill.

Association President Chris Cahill says many of the reforms heralded in the bill fall into the ‘better late than never’ category with some at least 30 years overdue.

"The shock to finally act was the murder of 51 people at prayer in two Christchurch mosques 15 months ago. What our politicians have passed today is law that focuses on the future safety of all of us. It also includes a powerful stated purpose - that in New Zealand it is a privilege, not a right, to possess and use a firearm, and with privilege comes responsibilities," Mr Cahill says.

Another key driver of this lengthy legislative process was the indisputable fact that there is no accurate record of how many firearms there are in Aotearoa.

"That limited knowledge of the number, the owners, the security of storage and the onselling processes have long been a deep flaw in our firearms safety processes.

The establishment of a firearms registry, long advocated by the association, will begin to address glaring inadequacies in our gun laws," Mr Cahill says.

"The registry, along with the ban on the types of semi-automatic firearms used by the murderers in Christchurch, and Aramoana before that, were recommended by Justice Thorp in 1997. New Zealand has had successive opportunities to do the right thing and today, parliament has finally delivered with this law."

For years the association has been raising the reality of gun violence in New Zealand, and this legislative process has given many a glimpse, if not more, of the prevalence of illegal weapons in our communities.

"Some debate has focused on the use of this bill when criminals won’t register their illegal guns and they certainly didn’t hand them in when required to last year," Mr Cahill says.

"What we do know is registries of all types promote behavioural change amongst owners because they know they are going to be held to account for the item they register. That extends to gun owners, and given that the majority of illegal firearms are stolen from licensed owners, registration leads to ensuring safer storage, reporting thefts of firearms when they occur, and not importing or on-selling to unlicensed persons.

"This law will, along with continued vigilence by police, gun owners and communities, mitigate the flow of guns into the hands of those who want them for ciminal reasons."

The association may not have won every battle it had with various aspects of this legislation but that is how democracy works, and we are proud to be a part of that. I now urge all who have an interest in keeping their fellow Kiwis safer in Aotearoa to work to make this new chapter a credit to the likes of Justice Thorp, whose name has so often been referenced in the effort to get this right," Mr Cahill says.

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