Government considers National's bid to give police 'greater powers' over gun control

Police could have "greater powers" over gun control in the Government's latest proposal to introduce firearms  prohibition orders (FPOs) - an idea pushed by National earlier this year but was rejected. 

Police Minister Stuart Nash launched a discussion document on Monday seeking public feedback on implementing FPOs, essentially giving police more powers to ensure high-risk people come nowhere near guns. 

The Government already prohibited assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons following the March 15 Christchurch terror attack in the first tranche of gun law reforms. 

The latest proposal for FPOs is part of the second tranche of gun law changes, currently in the select committee process. The second tranche already includes a firearms register and a tighter system for gun licences. 

Nash said the latest proposal is aimed at "high-risk people outside the licensing system, in particular, those with a history of violent offending, gun crimes or family harm". 

The orders would prevent high-risk people from being around others who have firearms, using them under supervision, or being at a location that enables access to guns. 

FPOs set conditions which people must follow and also set penalties for breaching those conditions, which would be monitored by the police. 

It could mean that someone subject to an FPO wouldn't be able to visit a property where firearms are held, or even if the firearms owner is licensed. 

The person subject to an FPO also wouldn't be able to travel in a vehicle carrying a firearm, and they wouldn't be able to go hunting even under supervision. 

Nash said FPOs could offer police "greater powers" to investigate people "whose behaviour cannot be regulated by a firearms licensing system". 

"FPOs are aimed at those who have already shown a disregard for the law through prior offending, which may include offending with firearms," he said.  

"They could be a gang member, or part of an extremist ideological group, or a person with a history of family harm."

Police could search properties and confiscate illegal firearms, parts and ammunition, and could monitor conditions place on people with a history of reoffending. 

The Government is seeking feedback on whether police or judges should make decision about FPOs, and the extent of police enforcement powers such as searching people and property without a warrant. 

The closing date for submissions is January 13, 2020. You can access the online submission form here

FPOs were considered by the former National-led Government in 2014 but the idea didn't go further. It was also recommended by a 2017 Select Committee Inquiry. 

A further proposal by National's former police spokesperson Chris Bishop in a Members' Bill was rejected earlier this year because it was considered too narrow and only focused on gangs.  

New South Wales introduced FPOs in 1973, and in 2013, strengthened police powers to conduct searches as part of FPOs. 

The number of firearms stolen in burglaries has increased significantly in the past 10 years, according to the Police Minister. 

In 2010, 440 firearms were reported stolen, compared to 771 during 2018, he said. 


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