Gun laws: focus on gangs "fuelling the fire" says member

By Talisa Kupenga

Some gang members say calls to focus on them in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings is a distraction that could lead to the over-policing of Māori. 

It comes as National's police spokesman Chris Bishop calls for firearm prohibitions to give police more power to raid gang homes.

Bishop wants firearms prohibition orders included in the Arms Amendment Bill which is before the house.

"Parliament needs to act to make it easier to go after these gang members and take their guns off them," he says.

But Porirua-based lifetime Mongrel Mob member Dennis Makalio says gangs are always used as an example.

"It doesn't take anybody to have power or to make laws to be crazy enough to pull a trigger."

It's been reported that Waikato Mongrel Mob members will not hand in their guns as required under new law reforms.

Police Minister Stuart Nash says "if anyone disobeys this, like the gangs have come out publicly and I've said on Monday and I've said on Tuesday and I've been very clear about this, we'll go very hard against anyone who disobeys the law."

Bishop says gangs should surrender their firearms just like everyone else but disputes the prohibitions would lead to the over-policing of Māori.

When Te Ao asked him what gangs he knew of in New Zealand he responded “like everybody else I'm aware of the Mongrel Mob, Black Power, King Cobras and other gangs around the country."

When asked which white supremacist groups he was aware of in New Zealand he told Te Ao, “Well, I haven't had any overt contact with white supremacist groups in my neck of the woods."

Police can already conduct home searches if illegal firearms are thought to be on-site, a situation Makalio says no child should have to see.

"I grew up actually with guns pointed to my head coming into my house and [police] shouldn't have a reason for them to come to my house with guns in the first place."

Bishop estimates about 600 gang members will be eligible for the order but says it will be up to the Police Commissioner to decide how to prioritise the most serious offenders within that group.

Another gang member who did not want to be named told Te Ao that targeting gangs is a deflection from the real issue.

“Why are gun laws being reformed?  Because of the Christchurch shooter who was a white supremacist.

“We have known for a long time that law enforcement agencies have been looking at Māori rather than where they should be looking.  They have a long history of taking their eye off the ball and when you have Nash and [the opposition] focusing on us it’s just fueling the fire.”  

Nash says anything that might have been covered under a firearms prohibition order is likely to come in the second stage of reforms.

Submissions for the first stage of the Arms amendment Bill close tomorrow.