12 May 2009

Minister wants police to look at gun control

3:57 pm on 12 May 2009

Police Minister Judith Collins will ask police to look at the issue of gun control, with a focus on online sales.

Police admit they they have no idea how many gun owners whose licences have lapsed still have firearms, in the wake of revelations the gunman at the centre of the Napier siege had at least 18 weapons in his home.

Jan Molenaar, 51, shot and killed Senior Constable Len Snee and wounded two other officers and a civilian on Thursday, before barricading himself in his Chaucer Rd house. His body was found in the house at the end of a 50-hour siege.

Molenaar did not have a current firearms licence. However, firearms discovered at his house included two short-barrelled pump-action shotguns, two semi-automatic rifles and a revolver.

Some 50,000 people failed to reapply for licences after a change in 1992 from lifetime permits to 10-year licences. Police do not know how many of those people still own weapons.

The Police Minister says issues to be considered will include whether firearms, rather than owners, should be registered.

Ms Collins also wants to make sure online sales are complying with the law and are not being abused. She says the law needs updating, as presently it deals only with firearms sold by mail order.

Labour MP George Hawkins had sponsored a bill covering licensing and the powers of police and customs when dealing with illegal weapons, but it stalled at the select committee stage.

Ms Collins says that bill may be looked at again and used as a basis for future law changes.

Call for firearms register

New Zealand gun control advocate Philip Alpers, now working at the University of Sydney specialising in gun safety and firearm injury prevention, says police are not proactive in following up lapsed licences.

He says there should be a register of firearms, not just a register of owners.

However, national manager of operations at police headquarters, Superintendent Tony McLeod, says police did follow up on gun owners after the law was changed, writing to all licence-holders and running an advertising campaign.

At that stage, licences of those who did not respond were revoked and a file on them was sent to the district the person was last known to live in, he says, where district police would have made inquiries to try to find them.

Superintendent McLeod told Morning Report not all those people were found, and a small number of unlicenced owners are picked up regularly through other inquiries and during the process of renewal of 10-year licences.

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners says it does not want to see a knee-jerk reaction while things are still so raw from the tragic shooting of Senior Constable Snee.

Trevor Dykes, from the group, says Jan Molenaar obtained firearms illegally after his licence was revoked, and no legislation could have prevented that.

Labour leader Phil Goff says it is now too late to consider licensing individual firearms.

Instead, he says, effort should be directed into looking at how to reduce the number of high powered firearms, military-style semi automatics and handguns finding their way into the hands of the criminal fraternity.