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'Police misinform Parliament on harsh gun club laws'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Police cited evidence that does not actually exist in persuading Parliament to adopt harsh laws on gun clubs and ranges, according to material obtained under the Official Information Act by the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO).

This week Members of Parliament are scheduled to debate the Third Reading of the Arms Legislation Bill, which formally licenses clubs and ranges, adding a wide range of responsibilities which the firearm community believes will discourage volunteers and members.

Police recommended licensing because of what they said were local concerns on safety and noise. When requested under Official Information Act for evidence, the Police referenced "anecdotal information of complaints (sic)" and that "Police is (sic) often approached by Local Authorities with concerns over this type of land use."

OIAs were lodged with local authorities to specify the number and type of complaints against rifle clubs and ranges, and when these had been notified to Police.

94% of the local authorities responded to the information request and could find no instances of them reporting a range or club safety issue to Police.

Of the 75 councils who responded, there were only three noise complaints they had received about firearms use:

Auckland Council received several complaints following an ongoing disagreement between a pistol club and nearby meditation centre;

Taupo District Council received an enquiry about firearms being discharged on a private farm, but found this to be compliant with their District Plan; and

Whangarei District Council found there was one breach of noise restrictions after shots were heard out of hours at a pistol club in December 2018 - a time when the club was being used for Police training.

COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee says the OIA’s show Police have misrepresented the number and nature of community concerns about clubs and ranges.

"These measures against clubs and ranges are based on a trumped-up problem without a shred of evidence.

"The public has no concerns about the safety of clubs and ranges, and none of the complaints about noise, apart from one involving police use of firearms, was ruled valid. Which is why not one Local Authority has reported anything to Police, except over their own use of a range.

She said that the compliance costs, and responsibilities heaped on volunteers, will threaten the viability of many clubs and ranges.

"Few people will have stomach for the rules, paperwork and the criminal responsibilities they will face for breaches - even if those breaches are very unlikely.

McKee says that the lack of evidence is further reason why changes to the Arms Act should be delayed until the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry are presented in April.

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