13 Aug 2019

Illegal firearms collection events: Police urge gun owners to make complaints

12:41 pm on 13 August 2019

Police are urging people with complaints over treatment at gun collection events to come forward after the gun lobby called on members to hold on to their guns.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO) put out a press release last night urging its members to hold back from the collection events around the country in response to members' reports the intensely managed events were becoming hostile with heavy presence of armed officers and interrogation of some owners.

COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee said some had been accused of being thieves.

"We've heard over the last few weeks a series of complaints from all over the country of people attending at collection events, being herded, put aside, interrogated about their parts and accessories that they are trying to hand back.

"It's just absolutely not the way to entice people to hand in firearms that have been prohibited. We don't like the behaviour that's occurring. This should be an event that people feel safe and secure.

"In response to this we are going to advise people to hold back."

Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement told Morning Report that was not matching up with what police were seeing.

"We're working extremely hard to ensure that there are avenues for all gun owners to bring their guns forward and that when they do engage with police with regard to surrendering their prohibited firearms that there's a respectful process in place and they get fair price. That's the absolute overwhelming sentiment that I've had back.

"99.9 percent of the gun owners are doing exactly the right thing, with the best intentions in the world."

He said there were just a handful of people who did not have that same intent, and it was police's job to ask questions if they thought questions needed to be asked.

"There's someone that turned up from Australia with thousands of parts to surrender to sell back to the New Zealand government when they weren't entitled to.

"Our job is to try and navigate our way through that and on the odd occasion when someone turns up in a sit where we think questions have to be asked then that's our job to do, is to ask it."

He said he had spoken to the COLFO president last night, and "that was not what he said to me".

"I spoke to him about it last night and he said they're hearing grumblings but no substance. That makes it very difficult for me to get to the bottom of it.

"COLFO, stakeholders, dealers, Gun City, Hunting and Fishing - you name it, we're speaking to them all, and if the purpose or the intent of COLFO through their website release is to make sure that those grumblings are substantiated so we can get to the bottom of it then I'm in support of it."

"It is a significant step and that's why I rang them, but we're in constant contact with COLFO so all they have to do is bring substantive complaints to us ... if you've got a concern about how you've been engaged with them bring it forward and then we'll get to the bottom of it."

He said the call for gun owners to hold back from the events was not helpful, but if they wanted to use one of the other avenues of surrendering illegal firearms that was an option. While police and many gun owners preferred the collection events because of speed and efficiency, guns could also be surrendered by pickup or at police stations.

"The reality of them saying to hold back I don't think is particularly helpful because at the end of the day we've got six months to get this process completed, we're a month and a bit into it."

He said the rate of collection at the events had not slowed, with 2000 firearms surrendered since Friday last week. He welcomed COLFO to attend events with him - like in Waikato on Thursday - and committed to ensuring all gun owners felt safe and secure.

"End of the day the point is this, if there are people that don't feel comfortable then it's our job to create the environment where they do because ... that's my commitment to New Zealanders is that we will get this right.

"I'm confident that every gun owner will be able to find one of those solutions that suits them.

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