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Police and guns

Summary:
If this is right, it looks like New Zealand needs better police rather than stricter firearms laws.  Here's Derek Cheng at the Herald: The man accused of the March 15 terror attack was supplied 2300 rounds of ammunition by using a police mail order form that also revealed to police he had an AR-15, a parliamentary select committee has been told.The information was part of a submission from licensed firearms dealer Paul McNeill to the finance and expenditure committee, which is considering the Government's second tranche of gun law reform.McNeill, who is also director of the Aoraki Ammunition Company, appeared before the committee on Friday via video link, but his submission was quickly taken offline in case it might affect the accused's right to a fair trial.He told the committee he

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If this is right, it looks like New Zealand needs better police rather than stricter firearms laws. 

The man accused of the March 15 terror attack was supplied 2300 rounds of ammunition by using a police mail order form that also revealed to police he had an AR-15, a parliamentary select committee has been told.

The information was part of a submission from licensed firearms dealer Paul McNeill to the finance and expenditure committee, which is considering the Government's second tranche of gun law reform.

McNeill, who is also director of the Aoraki Ammunition Company, appeared before the committee on Friday via video link, but his submission was quickly taken offline in case it might affect the accused's right to a fair trial.

He told the committee he received a police mail order form from the Dunedin arms officer in December 2017 to supply the accused with 2300 rounds of ammunition.

"At the time, Brenton Tarrant was issued with a 10 year [firearms] licence, expired 8 September 2027, indicating he was issued a licence in September of 2017, which from my information was only a matter of five or six weeks after he arrived in the country," McNeill told the committee.

"This time, he has no family, no partner, no job, no footprint in the community, yet he was vetted as being fit and proper and obviously given a full licence which allowed him to arm himself."

McNeill said the mail order form also said the accused was in possession of a Norinco semi-automatic rifle as well as an AR-15 - the type of military-style semi-automatic firearm the Government made illegal in the aftermath of the March 15 attacks.

"So the police were aware he had these firearms," McNeill said in video footage that was removed from the Parliamentary website, but was later posted on social media.

So. The police granted the guy a 10-year firearms licence on minimal background check. They approved his getting 2300 rounds of ammunition. They knew or ought to have known that he had an AR-15.

I don't think the problem here at all is the lack of a gun registry. The problem instead seems to be that the unit in police that dealt with firearms checking stuffed up.

And I wonder how much police pushing for tighter gun control is to distract from that.

In last week's Insights newsletter, I noted some related problems: 

Policing by Consent

New Zealand’s basic bargain around firearms ownership and policing always seemed rather sensible. It was very much a feature of New Zealand’s general “Outside of the Asylum” approach to policy.

Background checks on potential firearm owners limit access to firearms in the interest of public safety. The police then have no need to be routinely armed. It seems a far more sensible approach than America’s, where a heavily armed public has increasingly led to a militarised police force.

New Zealand’s bargain seems to be breaking down with an increasingly armed police force coinciding with far tighter restrictions on civilian firearm ownership. It puts at risk basic principles of good policing dating back to London’s Metropolitan Police Force in 1829.

New Zealand is one of the few countries that has maintained an unarmed constabulary. Police Commissioner Mike Bush put things well in 2009 after a rare shooting of a police officer led to calls for arming the police. He described our unarmed constabulary as a unique and cherished feature of New Zealand policing, and warned that routine arming of police would make community policing considerably more difficult.

The fundamental relationship between police officers and members of the public changes when one of them has a sidearm at the ready. The trial of roving squads of armed police ready in case of armed incidents has already led to their use in more routine stops.

Sir Robert Peel outlined the basic principles of policing that have stood for almost two centuries as the foundation for policing by consent. Those principles recognise that policing and good order depends on the public approval of police actions and the willing cooperation of the public, and that both of those are diminished when police are too quick to resort to force and shows of force.

Policing is challenging. But there has been no surge in violent or property crime involving firearms; police statistics going back to 2015 suggest a flat or somewhat declining trend in court action. And restrictions on private firearms ownership have strengthened considerably over the past year.

New Zealand’s experiment with roving armed police should end. It is an unneeded show of force. And it is contrary to Peel’s dictum that the best test of police efficacy is the absence of crime and disorder rather than the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

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