Police Association under fire over its latest magazine cover comparing gun lobby to trolls

The Police Association is under fire over its latest magazine cover.

The cover compares the gun lobby to trolls, and though the Association says it refers to the gun lobby in the US, gun owners here say the message is inflammatory. 

They say it will damage the relationship between police and gun owners in New Zealand, a relationship that is already showing signs of strain.

"A front-page advertisement like that on the front page of a magazine - a police magazine - it's quite disgraceful, "says Nicole McKee, of the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners.

But the Police Association is defending the cover, saying it's directed at American gun lobbyists who trolled them online.

"They're vicious, they're rude, and at times they're very threatening and that's what we experienced," says Chris Cahill, president of the Police Association.

But McKee says it's not acceptable.

"There's an obvious wedge that's trying to be pushed through New Zealand society - an 'us' and 'them' mentality," says McKee.

That relationship is already under strain, after the Christchurch terror attacks the Government, introducing new gun laws and a buyback scheme. 

David Seymour, leader of the ACT Party, says those rushed gun laws are to blame for this mess.  

"They created this environment where the police are under attack," says Seymour. "The police are attacking back, that's not the kind of kinder politics that Jacinda Ardern promised us."

There are calls for the police to act more responsibly and pull the article. 

"We have been told in recent weeks that our legally purchased firearms that police approved are evil, and we are also trolls - this needs to stop," says McKee.

But the Police Association isn't budging.

"I emphasise again, this isn't about responsible firearms owners, this is about trolls on social media that are attacking the freedom of speech," says Cahill.

Police Minister Stuart Nash has declined to comment but is urging people to read the article first. 

The article was set to be released on Monday but police have now decided to release it earlier.