It’s a massive project for Police, affecting all districts and involving more than 180 sworn and non-sworn staff – 15 in each district – over a six-month period.
Staff from around the country have received training in Wellington in the past month to prepare for the setting up of nationwide collection events, at which large turnouts are expected by Police.
Police Association President Chris Cahill said Police and all the staff who had put in an incredible effort to get such a large-scale operation up and running so quickly were to be congratulated.
“Their efforts in helping to remove these firearms from circulation will make New Zealand much safer,” he said.
As of last month, Police had confirmed 258 events over the next three months, with more to be confirmed for the last three months of the amnesty and buy-back.
In recognition of the mosque terror attacks that led to reform of the gun laws, the first collection event will be held in Christchurch on July 13 at the Riccarton Raceway.
It’s likely that even more Police staff will be involved in the overall project, but exact numbers had not been finalised, a Police spokesperson said.
The work ranges from organising the collection points and security, administering pay outs and transporting firearms and parts for destruction.
Firearms handed in at collection points will be disabled in a machine, nicknamed the Bulldozer, which renders them inoperable by bending the barrel and breaking the stock. The firearms will then be reduced to scrap at another location.
The scope of the operation is something new for New Zealand Police and Police Minister Stuart Nash has confirmed that there was consultation with Australian authorities, who have overseen almost 30 amnesties and buy-back schemes since the 1990s.
Mr Nash said the discussions covered the “pitfalls and legal risk” encountered there.
Independent and expert advisers were commissioned by the Government to develop a price list for the surrendered firearms and Police staff have already been collecting bank account details from people taking part in the amnesty. The value of firearms received at the collection points will be assessed, depending on condition, using the price list as a guide.
The list, which is available on the Police website, covers more than 300 prohibited makes and models – semi-automatic firearms, some pump-action shotguns and large capacity magazines, plus parts and accessories.
Compensation for firearms will be paid only to those with a valid firearms licence. A licence is not needed to receive compensation for parts and accessories.
Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said the process would be sped up if owners completed online forms on the Police website before handing in their firearms. The price list is available on the website and pay outs are expected to be made within 10 days.
The Police preference is for firearms owners to hand in weapons at the collection events, but there are other options, including: bulk pick-ups by Police for those with more than 10 firearms; exception-based pick-ups by Police if there are security concerns or transportation issues; and hand-ins at selected retailers, dealers and police stations.
Security at the collection events will be a major concern for Police, with multiple firearms arriving at once. Owners are being asked to make sure their weapons are not loaded and, preferably, in a storage case with any other parts.
A team of up to six police officers at the collection points will either be armed or have access to firearms.
“We appreciate that people have been patient as regulations have been developed and Police works through the details of managing such a large-scale collection and buy-back process,” Mr Clement said.
“Police wants to support our firearms owners to transition to the new laws and we want to ensure these changes are easy to navigate.”
Speaking on Radio New Zealand last month, Mr Clement said Police was well aware of the number of illegally held firearms in New Zealand – “We encounter them in our operating environment every day of the week, regrettably” – and that many of those owners had no intention of handing them over, “but that’s not going to stop us trying”.
“It feels like we have a once-in-a-long-time opportunity… so we are going to connect to those parts of the community and appeal to their sense of the right thing to do. If we get even one of those back, that’s another we don’t have in our operating environment.”