Media And Police Attribute Success Of Operation Dickinson To The Firearms Registry
The Sporting Shooters Association of New Zealand (SSANZ) is concerned about the political neutrality of New Zealand Police in the leadup to the 2023 General Election. We also have concerns about the media’s understanding of the Firearms Registry and its effects.
In the recent article regarding Craig Holtom, the author writes about the Firearms Registry as being instrumental to the success of Operation Dickinson. The method of investigation that New Zealand Police used is one that has existed well before 2021. Licensed Firearms Dealers have always had to keep a logbook of their transactions for items like firearms, with Police having the power under Section 12 in all iterations of the Arms Act 1983 to obtain these records, whenever they wished. But these powers and obligations can be traced back to their first appearance in the Arms Act of 1860.
New Zealand Police have used dealer logs to track down diverters well before 2021, the Registry has had nothing to do with this capability. The article implies that Police hesitated for at least 38 years to combine, digitise, and scrutinise dealer logs. This is not a good look on the part of Police.
It also implies that this investigative breakthrough only occurred because of the Firearms Registry that didn’t exist at the time. So why is the article erroneously attributing the success of the investigation to the Registry. The Registry was still a year away from being populated by gun owners by the time the Police had tracked down Holtom via the dealer logs. The Register had zero impact on the outcome of the investigation.
SSANZ would like to point out that the Police’s inability to organically compile dealer data was not because of insufficient laws, but insufficient law enforcement. Police have had this information in their hands for decades if not over a century and have only decided to efficiently process it since 2021. Whilst we applaud their initiative - better late than never - we ask what took them so long?
SANZ also encourages the Police to portray the actual effectiveness of the Register in a politically neutral and objective way, especially as polls are about to open. Most kiwis know that New Zealand Police wish to keep the Labour Party’s version of the Arms Act going as long as they can. It gives them power, more funding, and the ability to regulate in a way that’s largely independent of Parliament.
Police should be conscious that the public perception of being complicit in the exaggeration of policy effectiveness leading up to an election is a damaging one. It risks the Police looking like they are trying to publicly market policies in the leadup to a potential change of Government. SSANZ hopes this is not the case as misinformation and a politically active public sector during an election period is harmful to democracy.
We also encourage the New Zealand Herald to amend the article to make it clear that the consolidation of dealers logs and their usage in Operation Dickinson would have occurred regardless of the existence of a registry.