The PM rightly received applause for our ban on semi-automatic weapons yesterday. Back home, police did not answer a question about gangs stockpiling guns, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in the Bulletin.
Prime minister responds to shooting in US
Yesterday afternoon the prime minister appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In the wake of mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas where 19 children were killed, Colbert asked how we had managed to ban semi-automatic weapons so quickly after the Christchurch mosque shootings. Ardern’s response received applause from the audience. As it should. I simply can not put into words how difficult I find the situation in the US to comprehend. There is the magnitude of tragedy and then there is the sense that it will never stop in a country utterly paralysed by the gun lobby.
Police did not answer question about how gangs here continue to stockpile arms
A few hours before Ardern’s appearance, police superintendent Jill Rogers fronted a press conference here to address the spate of gang-related shootings in Auckland. Asked how the gangs were continuing to stockpile arms, Rogers did not answer. Now, there is a chasm between what has happened in the US and what has happened here, just as there is in our laws and culture around guns and gun control. That we quickly and seemingly simply enacted legislation to ban semi-automatic weapons is absolutely incredible to people in America. On the other hand, the recent shootings here raise questions about guns in our own community.
We don’t currently know who owns guns in New Zealand
Jarrod Gilbert, sociologist and author of Patched: The history of gangs in New Zealand, told RNZ’s Morning Report yesterday morning that a firearms register is an absolute necessity to find out where firearms are going in New Zealand. Gilbert has also helmed research published recently that found laws to combat gangs have almost no impact. There was $210 million for a police firearm’s unit and register allocated in the budget this year. I feel extremely naive saying this but I was genuinely shocked when, at the announcement of the funding, police minister Poto Williams said we’ve had no idea who owns guns and how many they own for 30 years.
Luxon would ditch firearms register funding
In responding to the news of the shootings in Auckland, National Party leader Christopher Luxon bounced the ball back into the government’s court, saying it needs to stop being soft on crime. Speaking to the AM show yesterday he said he’d reallocate the $210 million for a firearms register into firearms prohibition orders that would give police search warrant powers to go after illegal guns. He also said the country needs a dedicated unit to deal with all gang-related crime. This naturally conjured the spectre of Strike Force Raptor, a proposal the National party floated in 2020 and then backed down on. Police have recently launched Operation Cobalt to tackle growing violence between gangs.