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The New Zealand Police Association welcomes the Police nationwide initiative to crack down on gangs, targeting their firearms, violence, and the proceeds of their crimes.

Operation Tauwhiro will be carried out across all 12 police districts over the next six months, and Police Association President Chris Cahill says it has the association’s full support.

"We have been unrelenting in warning of the escalating dangers to officers and the community with the influx of gang members deported from Australia, the proliferation of illegal firearms, growing inter-gang tensions, and, underlying it all, the increasing availability of methamphetamine," Mr Cahill says.

"We are also aware of a change in attitude when it comes to using firearms. Not so long ago, guns were prized possessions of gangs and were pretty much for intimidation and threat purposes. However, of late there has been a discernible shift to people being prepared to use their illegal firearms against each other, when it comes to gangs, against police officers, and against the public in standover tactics and armed burglaries."

This is backed up by the examples Police has provided, including an episode in Tauranga where 96 rounds were fired into a gang leader’s house where children were inside watching television.

"The association has been keeping note of the number of times stories involving firearms make it into our everyday media, and over the last year or so that has been at least once, and often more, a day," Mr Cahill says.

"This is extremely unnerving for communities throughout Aotearoa, and, coupled with the incidents involving shootings and firearms presentation that never make the headlines, but the association is aware of, the full picture is disturbing."

The association knows that most of the illicit firearms in New Zealand have been stolen from legitimate gun owners rather than being illegally imported, but there is also considerable evidence of licenced gun owners buying firearms and on-selling them on the black market.

"That is one of the most compelling reasons for a firearms registry which was provided for in last year’s Firearms Legislation Act," Mr Cahill says.

"A key benefit of a registry is that a licenced owner must register every firearm so police know that if someone has ten firearms, then all ten will be available for inspection on licence renewal.

This also tends to encourage firearms owners to be acutely aware of maintaining secure storage of their guns because if any are stolen, the security of their gun safes will be scrutinised, and their licence could be in jeopardy if security is found wanting."

The association is also pleased to see Police recognition that the enforcement of Operation Tauwhiro will potentially impact on families and the wider community, so involvement of iwi and partner agencies, and social service providers is important.

"As Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has said, and we agree, the reasons for the existence and proliferation of gangs in our communities are multi-faceted.

"Successive family, health, educational and social failures in their lives are the drivers for many people now in gangs throughout the country. However, the reality for many other Kiwis is that these gangs present a growing discomfort, if not an outright danger, and that has to be addressed," Mr Cahill says.

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