7 Apr 2017

MPs call for gun ban for gangs

6:16 pm on 7 April 2017

MPs are calling for gang members and prospects to be banned from owning guns.

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Photo: 123rf

A parliamentary select committee has recommended the move after a year-long inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms.

Its report, released this afternoon, said the unlawful use of firearms was an "integral aspect" of gang culture.

The MPs said gang membership should disqualify a person from being deemed fit and proper to own firearms.

The report recommended police build up a firearms registry by recording a gun's serial number as its owner renewed their licence.

It argued the law be changed to "clearly state that a gang member or prospect must not be considered a fit and proper person to possess firearms".

"We believe that such an amendment would greatly reduce the number of firearms used by criminals and gangs in the commission of offences," the report said.

Police figures from 2014 show 44 percent of almost 4,000 patched gang members and prospects were previously charged with offences involving firearms.

In April 2016, the police identified 29 firearm licence holders who belonged to a gang. Six of those licences were since revoked or surrendered, the report said.

Unpatched Black Power life member Denis O'Reilly has advised governments on gang matters since Sir Robert Muldoon was prime minister.

He said the MPs were writing off all gang members.

"It's blue vision. It's prejudice... it's like saying all Muslims are terrorists. Just stupid."

Mr O'Reilly previously had a gun license, but did not renew it.

He said criminals should not be allowed firearms, but "not all gang members are criminals".

Gang expert and sociologist Jarrod Gilbert agreed.

"If you're a hunter and you're in a gang and there's been no problems in the past, suddenly you've become criminalised... well, I don't know what's changed overnight."

He doubted the move would do much to bring down crime.

"If you're going to commit a crime with a firearm, the chances are you're not going to use your own. And there's plenty of illegal firearms in New Zealand to get your hands on if that's what you want."

Such arguments found little sympathy with Labour MP Stuart Nash.

"By and large, the gangs are serious perpetrators of criminal activity... If you want to own a firearm, get out of the gang."

Police Association president Chris Cahill welcomed the suggestion.

"Gang members shouldn't be entitled to have firearms. It's a privilege, not a right. They only use them to break the law."

He said police knew of cases where gang members legally bought guns, then passed them on to people who used them to commit crime.

"Every little step will make a difference," he said.

The Law and Order select committee's report recommended allowing police to ban people deemed high-risk from owning or being in the company of people with firearms.

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