Gun crackdown: National wants bipartisan support for police raids on gang premises

The National Party wants bipartisan support to give police greater powers in raiding gang premises to seize illegal firearms. 

National MP Judith Collins, a former Police Minister, said in Parliament on Tuesday that the time had come to revisit her colleague's Bill last year that suggested the move. 

"My colleague Chris Bishop had a private members' Bill last year around this and it was defeated in Parliament. I would hope that given another chance it could be successful."

The introduction of Firearms Prohibition Orders was recommended by a 2017 Select Committee Inquiry, which would widen the powers available to police to search the homes and cars of gang members for firearms.

Bishop's Bill has surfaced again after the president of the Waikato branch of the Mongrel Mob, Sonny Fatu, said his gang would not hand over their firearms, despite the Government announcing gun law reforms. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last month announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles in the wake of the March 15 Christchurch terror attack. 

Legislation brought by Police Minister Stuart Nash was introduced on Monday and the Bill was introduced to Parliament on Tuesday, with the expectation it will become law by next Friday (April 12). 

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, standing in for Ardern on Monday, said the message to gangs will be clear: "You will be handing [their illegal firearms] back to the Government or some lawful authority."

But Peters' stern message was not enough to convince National that gangs will hand over their soon-to-be illegal guns, despite the Government announcing an amnesty period (which ends September 30) and a multi-million dollar buyback scheme. 

"I am sick and tired of listening to people emoting about how they're feeling sorry but they're not going to give up their firearms," Collins said, reflecting on the comments made by gangs. 

Bishop told Magic Talk on Wednesday: "Search warrants do work at the moment but the police say themselves that they would like these extra powers."

"[The gangs'] attitude demonstrates exactly why police need the power to issue Firearms Prohibition Orders. If law-abiding and legitimate users of firearms like hunters, farmers and shooters can give up their weapons, then so can gangs."

Bishop said National estimated that around 600 gang members would be eligible for the order, but that it would be up to the Police Commissioner to decide how to prioritise the most serious offenders within that group.

He said it would only apply to the most dangerous gang offenders who have convictions for firearms offences or serious violence. When police have reason to believe a gang member has breached the law, police would be able to search the vehicle or premises. 

In the spirit of bipartisanship following the Christchurch attack, Bishop said he wrote to Nash asking him to include Firearms Prohibition Orders in the current Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill before the House.

"The Government voted my Bill down when it went before Parliament last year, but the Christchurch attacks have changed this country and it's the right time to take action."

Under the new legislation, unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm in a public place would result in seven years imprisonment, and using a prohibited firearm to resist arrest would carry a penalty of 10 years in prison.