Legal lapse puts a hole in the bullet

David Shearer –Erring bucthers get- David Shearer

I got my gun license a few years ago.

I was impressed by the robust police system I had to go through to get it.

They interviewed me, checked my family, interviewed my friends, examined my history – and made sure that there was a safe, securely-locked place for a gun.

Since then, I have learned that there is a loophole in the law that enables unlicensed people to get guns. This surprises and concerns me. It seems pointless to have rigorous controls on gun licenses and ownership for some people, when others can buy guns without going through that process.

Journo’s story

The loophole came to public attention when journalist Heather du Plessis Allan bought a gun without a license as part of a TV3 story on gun laws.

I do not condone her for breaking the law, but it needs to be seen in the proper context: she did it transparently; to prove a point, and draw attention to a risk to our society that police must have been aware of.

The result of uncontrolled gun ownership is of course what we regularly see happening in the US – and indeed what we saw again last fortnight- another heart-breaking mass shooting. Weapons are just far too readily available there.

Over-stepping the mark

By contrast, I want to see gun ownership tightly controlled in New Zealand.

So when the police decided to raid Heather du Plessis Allan’s house and rummage through all her drawers and belongings in order to find a handwriting sample, I believe that was overstepping the mark.

Those can be construed as stand-over tactics. A handwriting sample could easily have been obtained in a multitude of other ways. Did they ask her for one? Did they consider checking her desk at work instead of her bedside table?

It is not as if the journalist was running away from the police: quite the opposite in fact.

Perspective investigation

If they need to do an investigation fine, but let’s get it into perspective. They should be thanking the journalist for helping make our communities safer.

On the whole, our police do their best. We have a dedicated force that is less corrupt than any in the world.

But police action last fortnight did nothing for their reputation. Police public image will suffer, just as it did three weeks ago when they tried the same threatening behaviour with academic, Dr Jarrod Gilbert, when he wanted legitimate information for his research into New Zealand gangs.

In the end, we all want the same thing: tightly organised and policed gun laws that will keep our streets and families safe.

David Shearer is a Member of Parliament elected from Mount Albert Constituency in Auckland. He has a sound knowledge of international affairs, having worked for United Nations for more than 20 years in several countries in various capacities.

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