Black Power life member Denis O'Reilly says police officers do need guns to keep themselves safe while on duty.
“I think every police officer has got a right to get home to their family and children safely and, if that means it’s wise for them to carry a firearm, I think the regional commander should make that call. I don’t think armed policing generally is good for the nation but neither is sitting on our kumus (bottoms) and trying to wish this problem away.”
His comments come following yesterday’s announcement made by the government to make it illegal for people who commit serious crimes to own firearms by introducing firearms prohibition orders.
Police Minister Poto Williams says the move will combat the influence of gangs and organised crime. The bill will allow judges to make the orders if people are convicted of serious violence, firearms offences, participating in organised crime and terrorism.
While the intention might be right, O'Reilly believes the government is "conflating organised crime and indigenous gangs".
"Anything that reduces gun crime and makes the streets safer is a good idea but this piece of thinking seems to be confused to the degree that it will end up taking Nike-type footwear off young people. They don’t seem to be very clear about what they’re trying to do."
He says the government hasn't been good enough at "gathering evidence”.
"We had a ministerial enquiry into violence in 1979, we had the Comber Report in 1981, and then we've had the Roper Report in 1987. All of those policies ended up engaging young people, mainly young Māori and Polynesian people in social activities and engaging them and diverting them," he says.
"Unfortunately, the fourth Labour government disestablished those policies and, since then, we've seen a rise in gang numbers and a rise in the prison population."
Parallel social response
He says a response based more on evidence is needed.
“Let’s engage. Let’s treat every incident of gun crime as you would Covid. You track and trace. You find out where the fundamental issue was. You find out how far the contagion has spread and you wind it back like that.
"There may be a parallel criminal investigation that might be going on as well but I’m saying there needs to be a parallel social response and we’re not thinking that through. We’re demanding that we’re going to do it through iwi, we’re going to do it through hapū and yet these young people clearly are not relating there, or might I say the other way around.”
Both the Firearms Prohibition Order Bill, and the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Amendment Bill will be introduced into the House before the end of the year, and the public will have an opportunity to comment on the bills when they are referred to select committees.