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What are the police-run gun confiscation events really like?

By Paul Taggart

An interesting WineNZ fact is that the most read story in the magazine since it was founded nearly quarter of a century ago, wasn’t about wine.

In the winter issue this year I wrote an opinion piece on the government’s rushed new gun laws, introduced following the tragedies in Christchurch in March. The article was viewed on the WineNZ website more than 20,000 times on the first day and the numbers just went up from there.

Confiscation of formerly legal firearms is now well underway and will continue until the end of the year. After that, the minister of police has gleefully vowed to start throwing licensed firearm owners in jail for five years.

Like most Kiwi gun owners I recognize Stuart Nash’s threats as political bluster, but there is a risk of a knock on the door and subsequent conviction for those who don’t comply with the new legislation, however poorly thought out and hastily implemented it was.

Therefore, like many others, I recently did what had to be done and handed in my semi-automatic Browning hunting rifle even though it, and I, have never been and never would have been a threat to anyone.

There have been calls from some gun folk to hold off handing in now-banned rifles and shotguns until closer to the December deadline, or until the opportunity exists to hand them in to gunshops, not to swaggering young policemen wielding their own semi-automatics at police-organized events, and I understand that thinking.

I opted for a police event at a Christchurch bowls club, mainly to see if the process was actually as awful as some have reported on social media.

The people running the sausage sizzle were pleasant community minded folk and were lovely. The civilians doing the processing were polite and professional. The guy dealing with me even expressed some empathy as he was aware my rifle was not a military style semi-automatic, which is what the confiscation legislation was actually aimed at. My gun just had the bad fortune to be caught up in poor legislation that was approved too quickly by low-wattage MPs.

For those of a technical bent, one small example of how silly some parts of the new law are can be read in the box on the opposite page.

What irks me even more than the obvious failings of the legislation is police arrogance and an unwillingness to admit there may be flaws with the way they operate.

An example of this – from another firearms-related incident – was evident after two police officers left their police car unlocked in Gore, with the ignition key and the gun safe’s key still inside the vehicle.

After a Benny Hill-style chase after a criminal around a house, the offender hopped in the patrol car and drove off, helping himself to a couple of police pistols for good measure.

The most hilarious part was the comment of deputy police commissioner Mike Clement after the incident. He said that police would be having meetings to see if leaving the keys in patrol cars was “best practice going forward”.

Seriously. They’ll be having meetings to see if it is a good idea to leave the keys to the ignition and the gun safe inside an unlocked car when it is unattended. How on earth did he make it past constable?

The police union shop steward was equally hopeless. Chris Cahill said, “it could have happened to any officer”.

The selfie that led to a brush with the law.

Really – they are all that stupid?

Wouldn’t it be nice if a top cop would just deal with the incompetence and simply say – “We messed up, the officer who left the keys in the car has been sacked and he/she will have to pay the cost of flying all the extra staff in to Gore to try to find the missing pistols”.

How come the police is the only organisation in the country where the union still runs the business? It is as if the commissioner of police is drunk at the wheel. Sorry, asleep at the wheel.

But I digress. The civilian staff at the confiscation event were pleasant, the sausage sizzle people were sound, the only problem was – you’ve guessed it – the police.

I don’t know how long it takes for new recruits to develop the police mind set. I don’t mean the unusual language “Proceed in a northerly direction to a chair where you will be assisted by an officer of the female persuasion”.

It is the bad attitude. I made the mistake of taking a selfie on my phone to show my daughters I was doing the right thing turning in my rifle. There was no one else recognisable in the frame and I thought nothing of it.

I understand why there would be a ban on photography at these events, to protect gun owners’ privacy. However, the only gun owner in the picture was me – and I had my own permission to take the picture.

Next minute I was pounced on by a big, skinhead police officer, with my alleged offence being unauthorised photography.

When I explained I wasn’t committing an offence as I was entitled to take a picture in a public place – which the bowling club is – he came up with the suggestion he could expel me from the bowling club because the police (he should have said the taxpayer) was paying for the building for the day, so it was their property, or some such nonsense.

His wee brain then computed that I wasn’t allowed to leave with my rifle, which hadn’t been processed, so throwing me out might not be straightforward. So he settled for eyeballing me like a schoolyard bully, made a strange snorting noise from his nostrils, not dissimilar to my schnauzer when the next door neighbour’s cat slips past him, and stumped off to find someone else to try to frighten. Too much testosterone and too few brain cells, I suspected.

I did wonder at one stage during the mild confrontation if his Taser would be deployed, and wondered how my aging carcase would cope with 50,000 volts. Thankfully it didn’t come to that.

Why do they behave in that way? He wasn’t in the police drunk tank on a Saturday night. These were all civilised people who had been vetted to own firearms and were, therefore, among the most law-abiding folk in the land. A polite, “Hi, sorry but we don’t allow photography in here, thanks” would have resolved the issue.

It is all well and good for the police to pay for a sausage sizzle so they can pretend to be family friendly at these events, but if the police staff present are neanderthal idiots who think they’re constantly dealing with gang members or drug dealers, then there is little wonder not many people have been turning up to surrender their guns.

I wonder, too, if behaving like that, even with gangs and drug dealers, is the best way for the police to get results. The gang guys probably think as I did, “What a dick”.

After my experience at the confiscation day I’m now firmly of the view that the police are the wrong people to be administering firearms law. Like driving licensing, it needs to be in the hands of civilians – like the guys I dealt with when I actually surrendered my rifle. Smart, young and polite – everything the cop who dealt with me was not.

The difference ¾ of an inch makes

This is technical stuff for nerdy gun people, so please feel free to turn the page.

Sitting on the next table to me at the confiscation event was a young man with a pump-action shotgun. He’d been waiting a couple of hours to hand it in.

The duck gun could hold more than the new legal limit of five cartridges in its tubular magazine, so he assumed it was now illegal.

The police website clearly states a shotgun is now illegal if it has a “non-detachable tubular magazine capable of holding more than five rounds”.

After wandering out the back and doing some tests and taking some advice, a police officer made the ruling that even though the gun could accommodate more than the legal number of standard 2 ¾ inch shotgun shells in its tubular magazine, it was legal because it was also capable of firing three-inch and 3½ inch shells, and it wasn’t capable of accommodating more than five of the longest shells.

So, two virtually identical shotguns – each capable of holding the exact same number of standard 2 ¾ inch shotgun cartridges – the same shells from the same box with exactly the same amount of destructive power; but one gun is legal, the other illegal. The reason – because one says on the side of the gun in tiny print 3½ inch, the other 2 ¾ inch – although the 3½ inch-chambered shotgun works just as well with 2 ¾ inch shells as the 2 ¾ inch chambered gun.

It means that the new law is a bit of a joke. It was written too quickly by people with inadequate understanding of firearms and how they work. If the intent was to limit shotguns to five-round magazines – how come people are being sent home with shotguns capable of holding seven standard rounds in the magazine and one up the spout?

It was a waste of a Saturday morning for the guy sitting next to me, but he was able to head back to the farm in his ute and try to explain to his family why Jacinda didn’t crush his shotgun.

This isn’t the only example of alarmingly moronic quirks in the new legislation, it just happened to be the example that unfolded before my very eyes in Papanui a few weeks back.

8 thoughts on “What are the police-run gun confiscation events really like?”

  • The thuggery of the Police is exactly the reason we should not disarm. I’m past being nice or fawning to Police and their masters in the faint hope they won’t do anything too mean. The Police have had this disarming as an agenda for years, and it’s strange how the Greens and Labour had the legislation all ready to go so quickly. Compare with Kiwibuild

  • The best way to deal with it is hammer the Politians. Labour must be feeling the anger & frustration of legal licensed gun owners.
    The best way to target the next round of legislation is get New Zealand 1st who hold the Balance of power to quash the vote.
    We do this by sending in our feeling to each of this Party’s Members. NZ 1st is on the cliff edge so tell them they get your vote if they act logic with this Firearms Legislation. Kia Ora.

  • A police man INSIDE a building that is crowded with guys for a buy back who is armed with a semi-automatic Bushmaster ?. A recipe for disaster, if some one wanted to “air a grievance” !!. Even if he was able to hit the person he was aiming at ( which was/is highly unlikely given the quality of training) the bullet would probably have gone right through him and hit some one else, then chaos would have resulted !!!. Not one person was frisked before they went inside and anyone could have had another loaded magazine or a pistol and any competent pistol shooter could have easily taken out every single officer in that building before they could even get a hand on their own pistol. What incompetent person authorized that little scenario ?.

  • you had an awesome browning ,you couldnt reduce capacity,or make non semi, or did the neanderthal police officers tell you ,you cant without actual paperwork to prove, why rush in to destroy a nice hunting rifle, when you consider the police to be neanderthals,dont make sense to me why ?!?!

  • Hi Paul,

    Great summary of exactly the key feelings I got up here in Auckland. Hopefully now it looks like they are trialing some gun shops to start doing this on an appointment basis as a more neutral venue.The other thing is just the huge wait involved at the larger events, 5 tables running so if you come in mid session you may not get processed if the queues are as long as I’ve seen. I was there 40 minutes before the official start, but they were open and running and still was number 23 seen 1.5 hours later.

    You raise a great point about the question – “Are the police the best agency to be running all this admin activity to do with the Gun laws”.
    My take on it is based on the evidence I have seen to this point – A big fat no… Why? for the following reasons.

    1. For the 2 years up until march this year the relationship between the police and sectors of the gun community had been getting more and more strained. To the point where were clubs that were no longer letting police shoot at their clubs as a way of showing they weren’t happy as to how they were being treated around a variety of issues. Key items at the time were the issue and re-issue of licenses, approval of import documentation and of course not being happy about the effective downsizing of existing MSC testing, the removal of local Arms officers and online vetting phasing in ( A la the Christchurch gunman). All of these things had a cost cutting and laissez-aire attitude to the existing gun regulations pre-March.

    2. Post March (actually this relates to most recently my own personal experiences in July August) and with the Arms act service delivery group well in place by that stage. But they still have issues with working through their own process and with other agencies (such as Customs) to provide clarity in what would be seen as simple areas such as import permits for non-firearm integral parts. For me, over 2 weeks to just process approval for the most simple items such as a rail or swing swivel is concerning. But the key piece that I was most shocked to hear directly from the license holder himself, was around re-licensing. The same group again, “the Arms act service delivery group” never asked this individual for which endorsements he wanted to be added, nor checked this at re-licensing, so he naturally assumed this would revert him back to a A car license. But instead he got it back with a B endorsement license with no further checks even though he had lapsed at his pistol NZ club membership for over 2 years.

    3 Thirdly, In the discussions about the next “proposed” tranche of regulations it has been mentioned by the Minister that they would like to ask the Police to be the gatekeeper of a group charged with the approval of type and calibre of firearms with the ability to potentially prohibit these at will. This to me is essentially allowing the police to be “the fox in the hen house” and allows for a whole swath of un-intended consequences to occur without recourse for firearms owners. We’ve already seen this the police making policy to suit themselves, then act upon their own interpretation of it with alarming inconsistency. To which they shrug their collective shoulders and say test it in the courts. I’m sorry that seems the wrong way fro this whole thing to go from the viewpoint of law abiding citizens. Surely there needs to be separation between Policy and enforcement, to give fit and proper NZ’ers some degree of certainty rather than deal with the expected raft of un-intended consequences.

    4. Register. I’ll be brief – Talk to B or E cat (previously) our highest level of firearms users ( and who were already on a Police run register) of the inability for the police to actually turn up for their regular vetting and inspection and have the right details with them. Yeah plenty of misses here. Their past abilities in this area even though the users have files of documentation sent in these often do not line up with what certifying staff turn up with in the other end. We also know that past behavior is often a pretty good predictor of future performance, or not as the case may be.

    I for one am looking for that certainty for my future state. But it’s also the reason why this administrative function needs to be removed from the Police to enable the whole community to get to a place where we all regain our trust in the system again, and work as a whole to ensure the safe guards we put in place do actually make NZ’ers safer, rather than just make us feel good about ourselves.

    I trust our frontline NZ police – I personally know quite a few of them, and they do a dammed good job based on what they do in the community. But this is just one extra function they don’t need to own, or at least as far as the administrative and policy side of is concerned (which is why we had AO’s). Leave them to do actual policing that they actually joined for.

  • you guys just voluntarily allowed yourselves to be disarmed. if the police ever abuse their power in any meaningful way, future generations will remember how you just caved to the threat of jail.

  • Thank you for sharing, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments around the thuggery of some members of police and the awful, awful behaviour and messaging of the Police Association. They have long since seen their day and are a blight on the NZ Police.

  • The law were written by city dwellers and not by firearms owners, gunsmiths or manufacturers. Their knowledge of firearms is so limited, that it should have been deemed illegal for them to even consider making law changes of the nature they have.

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