David Parker called out by Ryan Bridge over gun comment after recent Auckland shootings

AM's Ryan Bridge has called out Labour's David Parker after the minister suggested he'd "rather it was a shotgun than a semi-automatic" being fired at a house.

"I'm sorry, minister, for innocent people who have had their homes shot up this week, they will find that comment abhorrent, I would think," the AM host said.

New Zealand's gun laws are back in the spotlight this following the tragic shooting at a Texas school, in which 19 children and two adults were killed. It happened on the first full day of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's trip to the United States and as the US once again debates gun control, she's been looked upon by both local politicians and celebrities for wisdom.

Following the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch, Ardern's Government banned military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) and assault rifles, as well as the parts used to convert other weapons into MSSAs. It also established a gun buyback scheme and is developing a firearms register.

But while Ardern's being applauded overseas for New Zealand's gun reform, back home this week Auckland has experienced a wave of gang shootings.

"Some of our viewers this morning have been a bit upset that [Ardern's] out there promoting our gun laws, while we've got a spate of shootings in Auckland," Bridge put to Parker.

Parker responded by saying he had recently spoken to a police officer who said he felt "a lot safer" going to shooting incidents "knowing that gangs are much less likely to have semi-automatics". 

"If I was a policeman, I'd be pleased with those gun changes. It hasn't, of course, dealt with all of the gang problems in society," he said.

But Nicola Willis, the National deputy leader appearing alongside Parker on AM, suggested New Zealanders being shot at won't be worrying about what type of gun is being fired. 

"When a gun is shot at your house in the middle of the night, it's a bad gun," she said. 

Parker jumped in, saying: "To be honest, I'd rather it was a shotgun than a semi-automatic, personally". 

After Bridge called him out for that remark, the minister repeated that police feel safer due to there being fewer semi-automatic weapons on the street. 

"So do I. I am absolutely unforgiving of any illegal activity, especially with guns.

"But I do make the point, as the Prime Minister made… that we are better off as a society because we have banned and got rid of just about all of those semi-automatics."

One of the criticisms of the gun buyback scheme - which saw more than 60,000 firearms handed in - was that gang members weren't likely to participate. As New Zealand doesn't currently have a firearms register, it's therefore impossible to know how many semi-automatics remain out there. 

Parker was asked if he believes gang members gave back their semi-automatics. 

"Well, yes, in the main," he replied.

"There are far fewer semi-automatics for gangs to acquire illegally than there used to be, because you can't buy them anywhere in New Zealand. The few remaining semi-automatics that are out there are held illegally by people, and when they are found they are taken off people, so the number of semi-automatics has gone down dramatically."

Willis didn't agree. 

"The gangs kept their guns and law-abiding people handed on their guns. And now we have a situation where we're getting multiple shootings a night in Auckland and that's not okay. 

"That's actually why National has promoted firearm prohibition orders with search powers for police. We've got to go after the bad people and not just create more rules for the law-abiding." 

National's attempt to introduce firearm prohibitions orders was squashed by the Labour majority, but the Government has put forward its own version - though the Opposition say their’s is not as strong.  

Newshub reported earlier this year violent firearms-related offences have been increasing, from 901 in 2018 to 1142 in 2019, 1143 in 2020 and 1324 in 2021. The number of firearms licences being revoked is also going up, while the number of reported stolen firearms is falling.

While acknowledging the number of firearms held unlawfully remains unknown, police Superintendent Mike McIlraith said the buyback scheme has had an impact.

"The number of high-risk firearms previously lawfully held in New Zealand has been reduced, the importation into New Zealand of semi-automatics and the semi-automatic parts used to convert semi-automatic into military-style semi-automatic firearms has been dramatically reduced, and the importation of and access to large-capacity magazines stopped."