National leader Judith Collins speaks up for columnist Rachel Stewart stripped of her guns over 'threatening' tweet

National leader Judith Collins has spoken up for a columnist who was stripped of her guns over a tweet police considered to be "threatening". 

Rachel Stewart, who has written for Stuff and NZ Herald, lashed out on Twitter in May amid debate over Speak Up For Women, a group opposed to gender self-identification, being blocked from hosting a speaking event in Christchurch

The discourse online became heated, with transgender activists lashing out at Speak Up For Women supporters like Stewart, and vice versa. 

Stewart, in response to Speak Up For Women supporters being labelled "grubs" on Twitter by an advocate who accused them of being anti-transgender, responded with a tweet that police considered to be threatening. 

"Is it wrong that the country girl in me wants to invite my gun-toting sisters over, strip this wee f***er naked, let him loose in the back paddock, jump on the tray of the ute, and hunt him down with spotlights while whooping & hollering & drinking?"

Stewart posted screenshots showing that Twitter did not take action. Police did take action, however, after receiving a complaint. Stewart said two officers showed up at her home and removed her firearms, licence and ammunition. 

In the notice of suspension Stewart posted online, police said they "consider threatening any form of violence against a person and exhibiting any form of hatred, as well as non-compliance with the Arms Act 1983, to be inconsistent with the criteria of a fit and proper person". 

Columnist Rachel Stewart.
Columnist Rachel Stewart. Photo credit: Twitter / Rachel Stewart

Collins, who defended Speak Up For Women after it was blocked from hosting its event in Christchurch, has also spoken up for Stewart on Twitter. 

"Supporting free speech and a good person," Collins wrote in the comment section of a tweet showing support for Stewart. 

Collins, speaking to reporters on her way into caucus on Tuesday, said she was aware Stewart had been stripped of her guns when she wrote the tweet. 

"Yes I was, and it wasn't a death threat, it was an unwise comment, but there was no intention around it," Collins said. 

"I am actually really shocked to see people like Rachel Stewart being criminalised under the current regime and when I was Minister of Police I expected police to actually get on and deal with criminals instead of cuddling up to gangs and not taking out people like Rachel Stewart."

Collins said she has met Stewart before, but "wouldn't call her a friend". 

She grinned as Stewart's tweet was read out to her. 

"It was a very unwise tweet."

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Last month Speak Up For Women filed proceedings against councils in Auckland and Palmerston North following the cancellation of bookings for speaking events. 

Auckland Council said it received 12 formal complaints, with members of the community, council staff and the Rainbow Advisory Panel all voicing concerns about the wellbeing of the LGBTQI+ community if it went ahead.

Auckland Council settled on letting them use a room within the Town Hall. 

"Accepting a booking is not an endorsement of the event by council," it said in a statement. "Auckland Council does not discriminate against people or groups based on their political opinions."

Speak Up For Women also had its Dunedin event cancelled. Dunedin City Council said the decision was made on the basis of health and safety concerns, and it's been working with the group to find another venue. 

The events were to discuss gender self-identification clauses within the Births, Deaths, Marriages, Relationships, Registration Bill which is currently before Parliament.

Stewart, who is opposed to trans women competing in women's sport, has spoken out against transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard's selection to compete for New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Collins has called for an "honest conversation" about trans women in sports amid backlash against Hubbard's selection. 

The New Zealand Olympic Committee says it was just following the guidelines set out by the International Olympic Committee.