Gun law questions inevitable after shootings

It was inevitable that questions would be asked about our gun laws after the  Bay of Plenty shootings and siege.

I don’t know how tightening firearm laws would prevent isolated incidents like this. It’s impossible to predict which individuals might make stupid decisions.

Perhaps it’s more important to seriously reconsider our cannabis laws.

Stuff: Kawerau siege: Is it time to look at our gun laws?

While the Kawerau siege ended peacefully, the alleged shooting of four police officers has raised the issue of whether cops need better access to firearms, as well as questions about New Zealand’s gun culture. Can anything be done to stop similar situations?

The last major change to police firearms access came in 2012, when police were given access to a lock-box of firearms in every frontline car.

The Kawerau siege is not an ideal example for those pushing for easier police access to guns: the police shot were not unwitting constables taken by surprise, but members of the elite Armed Offenders Squad, sporting extensive training and body armour which saved their lives.

Tellingly, the idea of police officers toting guns on their hips isn’t a vote-winner, either with politicians or ordinary Kiwis.

But is it a vote loser?

And should votes be the deciding factor?

Police Association president Greg O’Connor, a long-term supporter of greater police access to guns, says talking about the topic now would distract from the main issue – how criminals are getting guns in the first place

O’Connor says no police officers are surprised by the Kawerau shooting, coming on the back of a notable rise in firearms-related incidents which police have faced in recent years.”There have been so many near-misses, so many times police officers have been shot at…this time, four officers weren’t lucky.”

He says the real arms race is taking place between criminals, with police the “collateral damage”.

But is ‘criminals getting guns’ the issue in the Kawerau incident?

I think one of the biggest questions from this shooting is:

Another issue which the Kawerau siege raises is the country’s drug laws, and the dangers that police face in enforcing them.

In Napier, Christchurch and Kawerau, it was a cannabis search or operation which led to a violent outcome in each case.

The amount of resources involved in policing cannabis and the risks involved should be balanced against the risk of using the drug – which are relatively low. Illegality aside cannabis causes far fewer problems than alcohol.

The Kawerau incident is more failed cannabis policies (political and police). Firearms were a prominent factor but gun laws don’t seem to be the issue here.

More twists in Mediaworks firearm purchase

While journalists generally have been supportive of Heather Du Plessis-Allan over the Story rifle buying story, and scathing of the police for searching her home David Fisher and NZ Herald have been doing some actual investigative journalism.

Fisher reveals a number of very pertinent facts in The Big Read: Twist to TV gun-buying tale.

Elements of TV3’s gun buying story were contrived as documents show a production manager on the show may be directly implicated in the purchase and delivery of the .22 rifle at the centre of a police inquiry.

The Herald also understands Mark Weldon, the boss of TV3’s owner MediaWorks, appears to have personally approved the gun buying story.

During broadcast of the story, du Plessis-Allan was shown holding a piece of paper to the camera saying: “Normally you take this form down to the police station along with your firearms licence. The police officer checks that you actually do have a firearms licence and signs at the bottom of the form. We can tell you we didn’t take the form to a police station.”

In the wake of an outcry over the search, police put out a press release saying TV3 staff would not be interviewed so detectives took “steps necessary to obtain the information required to progress the investigation”.

Du Plessis-Allan told viewers that night TV3 had handed over information sought by officers.

“They asked me for the original mail order form – I handed it over. They never asked me for my handwriting samples and know that had they done it, I would have handed them over.”

The Herald has studied the copy of the mail order form used to buy the rifle from Gun City and compared it to the form shown in the broadcast on October 21. The documents are different – the “B” in “bolt”, the “R” in “rifle” and the “AC” in “action” most strikingly so.

It means detectives were confronted with the possibility of more documentation other than that which was used to purchase the weapon.

The existence of two forms would compel detectives investigating the gun buy to search for other documentation, according to Criminal Bar Association president and former police detective Tony Bouchier.

The search warrant of du Plessis-Allan’s home was for more than handwriting samples:

The single reference to the “original mail order form” by du Plessis-Allan has been the only comment about the documentation used to buy the rifle. Both Story hosts have spoken repeatedly of the search being to obtain handwriting samples, referring to police “looking for handwriting samples”.

There has been no reference to the second part of the search warrant – of which the Herald has a copy – and its second stated objective. The warrant specifically seeks “all copies of the Gun City mail/online order form, or other sheets of paper that have Justin Devine’s signature on it,” referencing a copy of the actual order form used to buy the weapon and the false name adopted for the purchase.

Another person involved:

Along with the order in the name of “Justin Devine”, the form carried a credit card number said to be in the name of “J Devine”.

Story’s production manager is Jayne Devine, according to her LinkedIn page. The address on the Gun City mail order form to which the rifle was delivered has been matched by the Herald with Ms Devine’s home address.

So the Story story was a packaged story that left out a few of the details. As has coverage of the search.

While a jail term is a possible outcome for forgery and impersonating a police officer I don’t think that would an appropriate penalty. But it seems reasonable for the police to investigate this.

And it’s good to see journalists like Fisher doing some hard core investigating rather than just jumping on the media bandwagon (and mutual defence wagon).

 

Illegally buying a firearm

Story (TV3) ran a story last night showing how Heather Du Plessis-Allan bought a firearm, pointing out how ridiculously easy it was to buy a rifle online.

This is a serious concern – but serious concerns have also been raised about the use of a fake name and a fake firearms license number, and also allegedly used the name, ID number and signature of a fictitious police officer.

(Reports refer to a gun license – they are called firearms licences. And the ‘gun’ that was purchased was a rifle).

What you should do is print off an order form, fill it in and then go to a police station with a firearms licence to get Police to verify it and sign the form.

The Story report simply says they didn’t visit a police station.

Highlighting a problem with the ease of purchasing firearms has some merit. But forging police officer details and ‘obtaining by deception’ are potentially serious offences and the police “would not rule out charging the woman who bought the gun”.

Story reports (video at the link): Loophole in gun laws needs to close.

Story was able to obtain a rifle, but it should not have been able to happen and it was too easy to get.

There is a serious weakness in the gun laws that should be closed.

Perhaps – but how tough should procedures be to prevent false claims and forgery?

It would be interesting to know what led to Story doing this? Did someone suggest it to them? Were the ways of faking application details also suggested?

A mail order form was printed off the gun dealer’s website. A fake name and gun license number was used, and the form was not taken to a police station.

Duncan Garner says “we bought it under the name who simply doesn’t exist and who doesn’t have a firearms licence” – obviously if they don’t exist.

The form was sent to Gun City and on the same day, Story received a call.

Two phone calls happened, but information was not checked either time.

A few days later, a parcel arrived.

I could imagine someone in a rural area wanting to obtain a firearm (legally) but why in a city like Auckland? It would be far quicker and easier to do it in person at a shop – and easier to check fraud. Firearms llcences have the holder’s photo on them.

Story wants to stress that someone with a current firearms license was nearby who took possession of the rifle. It was locked away in a steel cabinet as the law requires.

Complying with bits of the law is not a defence against others. Du Plessis-Allen says they also didn’t have any ammunition for the rifle (it was .22 calibre) – a firearms licence would be necessary to purchase ammunition.

And I presume ammunition can’t be delivered along with a rifle,

Gun City is taking a private prosecution against Story and does not believe criminals exploit this weakness, so think nothing needs to change. However, they have admitted they will make changes.

I can imagine them being very unhappy about being duped into selling a firearm to Story.

StoryRifleSproting

$300 sounds cheap for a .22 rifle but what do you expect when the manufacturer can’t spell Sporting on the instructions.

Stuff reports that Police are investigating – Gun shop owner vows to prosecute TV3 reporter:

A gun shop owner is vowing to privately prosecute TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan, claiming she bought a gun without a licence for her current affairs show.

Auckland City Police has announced it has opened a criminal investigation into the purchase of the gun over the internet.

The police investigation stemmed from a report “from a woman alleging that false details had been used to fraudulently obtain a firearm via an online dealer”, the police statement said.

“For anyone to possess a firearm without having the necessary license is a criminal offence and, if proven in court, could result in a sentence of up to three months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $1000.

“Charges for obtaining by deception, if proven, carries penalties ranging from three months imprisonment up to seven years imprisonment depending on the value of the item obtained.”

And Gun City isn’t happy:

A gun shop owner is vowing to privately prosecute TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan, claiming she bought a gun without a licence for her current affairs show.

Owner David Tipple said the store had broken no laws – but claimed du Plessis-Allan and TV3 could be in trouble.

If police didn’t prosecute the journalists, he would take a private case against them, he said.

He claimed that: “We’ve done nothing wrong. We have completely and absolutely complied with the law.”

The form for the gun purchase had, he claimed, been forged, using a fake name against a fake gun licence number that just happened to be a valid number for a licensed New Zealand gun user.

Tipple said maybe du Plessis-Allan just got lucky with the licence number.

His bigger concern was that the gun form also featured the name, ID number and signature of a fictitious police officer.

That is a concern.

To what extent of illegality should journalists be able to go to prove deficiencies in legal procedures?

I could imagine Police not being very happy if Story did a story on how easy it was to buy drugs by buying drugs.