City Soapbox, Hamilton News, April 2016

News item
Friday, April 8, 2016

Illegal possession of firearms to be investigated

Like most New Zealanders, I was appalled by the shooting of four Police officers in Kawerau last month. Along with other recent violent offences, and the discovery of a large cache of illegal military-style weapons in Auckland, the incident confirms the need to investigate how criminals are able to obtain illegal firearms.

That’s why I welcome the recent decision of Parliament’s Law and Order Select Committee to conduct an inquiry into issues relating to the illegal possession of firearms in New Zealand. The draft terms of reference focus on identifying how widespread firearm possession is among criminals, including gangs, and how criminals, gangs, and those who do not have a gun licence, come into possession of firearms.

The inquiry will investigate the relationship between organised criminal gangs and illegal firearm possession. The committee will seek to hear evidence from several organisations with expertise in these areas. Once the terms of reference have been finalised, the committee will consider making a call for public submissions.  

Gangs are an insidious problem in New Zealand, and gang members are disproportionately responsible for serious offending, particularly family violence and the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine. It is disturbing that gang members and their associates are often found in possession of a range of weapons, including illegal firearms.

In National’s 2014 election manifesto, our number one law and order priority was to crack down on gangs.  So I also welcome New Zealand’s first multi-agency Gang Intelligence Centre which aims to reduce the harm gangs cause.

The centre is part of the Government’s Gang Action Plan. It brings together information held on gang activity by Social Development, Customs, Corrections, Internal Affairs, Immigration and Police.

The information will be used to disrupt and dismantle illegal gang activities, and to identify and support gang members and associates who want out.

The wider social consequences of gang crime are estimated to have a long-term cost to the taxpayer of around $714 million through contact with MSD and CYF for gang members and their children.

We want to break inter-generational gang life and welfare dependency, and steer young people away from gang membership. So, as part of the Gang Action Plan’s Start at Home initiative, MSD is partnering with local social service providers in a pilot to deliver wrap-around intensive support services, increase educational achievement and employment opportunities for gang-connected families, and focus on youth mentoring and positive role modelling.

Gangs don’t need to be a fact of life in New Zealand.  National promised to take action on gangs and we are working hard to deliver results.