3 Apr 2019

National's Judith Collins wants tougher action on gangs with guns

1:35 pm on 3 April 2019

National Party MP Judith Collins is urging the government to crack down on gangs with illegal firearms by giving the police greater powers to raid gang homes.

Judith Collins

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

It follows recent comments made by Waikato Mongrel Mob president, Sonny Fatu, who said the gang would not be handing in their firearms under the new gun laws.

Patched members of the Mongrel Mob stood side by side performing haka outside a Hamilton mosque in a display of solidarity following the Christchurch terror attacks.

But days later Mr Fatu said the gang would not be handing in their guns to authorities under the new gun laws.

The remarks have left many MPs, including National's Judith Collins, reeling.

"We also saw people like gang members coming out and saying they were with the Muslim New Zealanders and then someone asked them the question, 'what about giving up your illegal firearms?'

"Well I tell you what ... best way forward is to give the police the powers, give them the fire power to do it, and get on and take them."

Where they do not have sufficient evidence for a warrant but they are certain there are guns there.

Ms Collins today told Morning Report it was very concerning that the Mongrel Mob president declared the gang wouldn't be handing over their guns when members of the public who had purchased their firearms legally would have to.

"Gangs had plenty to do with other shootings, often with other gang members ... police officer have been shot by gang members," she said.

At the Arms Amendment Bill's first reading in Parliament yesterday, she urged the government to consider firearm prohibition orders against gangs.

"One of the things I thought was most important was the issue around firearm prohibition orders, to enable to police to go into gang houses and seize firearms, whether they know for certain they are there or not.

"I'm sick and tired of listening to people emoting about how they're feeling sorry, but they're not going to give up their firearms."

She told Morning Report that when she was the police minister in 2016 police had specifically asked for these powers.

Ms Collins said when Paula Bennett took the portfolio over from her she supported this.

She said the issue came up again last year when her colleague, National MP Chris Bishop, put this up as a private member's bill.

"Parliament failed by not supporting it," she said.

She said the law is absolutely needed.

"Particularly when we have gangs with methamphetamine use and manufacturing guns, illegal guns are being used more and more to protect their patch from each other."

However, Ms Collins said this wouldn't just target gang members but also people who have previous offences.

"I make no apology for being on the side of trying to protect people from gang members or anyone else illegally using guns."

National MP Mark Mitchell agreed with Ms Collins' comments that gangs should be handing in their firearms.

"The fact that they were flouting the authority that this Parliament has, that this country has, in saying that they are not going to observe the legislation that this Parliament is passing.

"I 100 percent support taking the strongest possible line that we can against gangs."

Meanwhile, Mr Bishop has written to the Police Minister Stuart Nash asking him to crack down on gang members' access to guns.

Mr Bishop said the country had changed since the 15 March terror attack and police needed more powers to search the homes and cars of "the most dangerous gang members".

"In the past few days there have been news reports that gang members will refuse to give up their firearms, even when new laws are introduced which will make many of those weapons illegal," he said.

"If law-abiding and legitimate users of firearms like hunters, farmers and shooters can give up their weapons, then so can gangs."

But Mongrel Mob member Tai Pairama said many gang members will surrender illegal firearms, despite what the gang's Waikato president said.

"That's his personal opinion, it's not the opinion of the rest of the nation. The views are in his own inner circle, and some people are disregarding some of his comments."

Black Power life member Denis O'Reilly said he could not believe MPs were targeting gangs.

"Remember, it's the members of the Pākehā gun club that committed this atrocity and it's almost like a red herring that's been thrown to us to suddenly turn this into a debate about gangs.

"My friend and brother, Stuart Nash, starts talking about, 'oh can't let these things in the hands of the gangs'. Where the hell did the gang discussion come in?"

He is urging anyone with a semi-automatic firearm to hand it in.

And he has just one message for MPs.

"Not every Muslim is a terrorist, not every gang member is a criminal, and not every criminal is a gang member."

Sociologist and gangs researcher Jarrod Gilbert says giving the police the ability to search gang houses for illegal firearms without evidence will only create scandal.

He said it's a step too far, especially as it would be hard to draw the line on which houses and how often these houses can be searched.

Mr Gilbert said the comments are just an opposition party trying to get traction.

Owners of illegal firearms have until the end of September to hand them into authorities.

Those who do not, including gang members, could face up to 10 years in prison.

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