Police Commissioner Peter Doone today welcomed the Governmentâ€™s announcement of new firearms control measures including gun registration.
"These steps have the potential to enhance community safety," Mr Doone said. "It means police will be able to link firearms to licence holders, discourage illegal dealings, and have information on how many firearms are in the country and who has them."
Mr Doone said the ability to track firearms is a key component of an effective firearms control programme, and will bring New Zealand in line with other Commonwealth countries.
"We are committed to making sure the new measures will work."
The Commissioner said the level of firearms misuse in New Zealand was too high, with too many criminals having access to weapons.
"Last year 755 robberies and 27 homicides involving firearms were recorded," Mr Doone said. "The trauma experienced by these victims of crime and their families cannot be under-estimated.
He acknowledged many firearms owners were responsible people who complied with current laws and safety procedures. But the wider community interests demanded firmer measures.
"Firearms ownership is a privilege, not a right," he said. "The public needs to be satisfied there are processes in place to ensure that firearms owners are suitably vetted and that they comply with safety requirements.
Mr Doone said the new measures will enable police to more easily identify and remove illegal firearms from circulation, increase the ability of police to investigate crimes involving firearms and help in finding out where offenders have obtained their weapons.
Itâ€™s estimated there are 700,000 firearms in circulation. Police believe that an effective register of firearms as well as licence holders will significantly improve police capability to protect the public from illegal use of weapons.
"Weâ€™ll also have a much better idea when responding to family violence situations of the potential for firearms to be involved. It will increase safety for police officers and for the crime victim."
The Commissioner said police will be making every effort to complete the relicencing programme which started in 1993. There is concern, however, that many firearms owners have not relicenced and their licences have been revoked.
"Once the changes have gone through the legislative process firearms owners will be encouraged to relicence through a public education campaign," Mr Doone said. "There will be a six month amnesty where people can surrender or renew licences, or hand in firearms without fear of prosecution.
"Police and other government agencies will all play a part in minimising the risks associated with firearms usage.
"The sharing of information between agencies, particularly the health sector, in identifying high risk firearms licence holders will help enormously," Mr Doone said.
"This type of approach will help lessen the risk for needless firearms tragedies."
Office of the Commissioner