Unsurprisingly, some politicians and gun lobby members don’t like it, and given it is election year, the registry has become somewhat of a political football. However, that is not distracting Te Tari Pūreke (Firearms Safety Authority) director operations Superintendent Richard Wilson.
“That’s for the politicians to work through and I’ll leave that to them. For us, it’s really about creating safer communities, and this is a significant tool for keeping frontline police safe in their dayto- day jobs,” he says. “If they are better informed, it will enable them to be safe.
“It’s very much a case of looking at the safety benefits for our people, and particularly staff encountering firearms almost daily.”
Police Association president Chris Cahill reinforces that safety message and is quick to rebuff what he calls “false or misleading” comments from registry opponents, including that it will provide a “shopping list” for criminals.
“There is absolutely no evidence that the existing registry for restricted firearms such as pistols has become a shopping list, so that argument is nonsensical,” Chris says.
So too is the claim that criminals and gang members will not register their guns.
“That is a ridiculous argument because the very nature of who they are – criminals – means they do not obey laws, any laws, but we don’t get rid of laws on that basis,” he says.
Where there is “shopping” is through so-called “straw purchasing” – a practice in which licensed firearms owners who, preregistry, can buy as many guns as they like without having to register them individually, and then on-sell them to criminals, including gangs.
“We expect to be able to very quickly shut down the (straw purchasing) rings through which firearms are flowing into the illicit market, and that will enhance the safety for communities,” Richard says.
“The majority of licence holders are fit and proper people and do the right thing. It's some out there, ‘bad apples’ that the registry will help us to weed out.”
However, no-one is naive enough to believe criminals will give up looking for other means of acquiring firearms. Richard emphasises Police will be watching that very closely. At the same time they’ll be educating licensed owners on how to prevent burglaries of their guns, which in the past, have not have been reported to Police for reasons such as the likelihood of losing their licence due to insecure storage.
With a registry, the theft will need to be reported as the owner must account for missing firearm/s.
“That’s the behaviour that is going to help us understand exactly what is out there and potentially falling into the black market,” Richard says.
“This is about taking a substantial step towards making it a lot harder for criminals, gangs and terrorists to get their hands on firearms in Aotearoa.”