Email to MP’s from COLFO dated 30 July 2012

Dear Member of Parliament,

This is the final email in the series of six that have been sent to you over the last six months.

We would like to thank you for taking the time to consider our opinions and the recent research we have collected on the behalf of licensed firearm owners.

While most responsible firearm owners are proud of the trust society has placed in them to pursue their interests safely, we are mindful there are always ways we can improve. We believe with well considered education and legislation in relation to firearms, safety is improved. We are proud of the recent international rating that reflects New Zealand as one of the safest places to live in the world.

The Council continues to work with police and other agencies to ensure the rules and guidelines keep up to date with the evolution of sporting interest and technology. Modern design and production methods mean firearms are becoming more accurate, so we have to be able to update rules and guidelines to reflect these changes when they are used for legitimate purposes.

We support the recommendation from the Law and order Select Committee to set up an effective advisor group to ensure a balanced position is achieved to consider the management of real and perceived risks. A process that empowers law abiding citizens, while seeking to limit those that ignore the law, will hopefully create the right checks and balances.

We attach an article written by Anne Widdecombe, a former English Member of Parliament who regrets the decisions she was involved in, made in haste, that have resulted in limiting access to firearms for sporting activities.

Going forward we see three key areas to improving firearms safety in New Zealand.

First is the basis of our Arms Act, Access - allowing only those who are ‘fit and proper’ to have right level of access to firearms. Access should escalate from a new trainee learning safe shooting with controlled access, under the guidance of an unrestricted access firearm owner, through to those who have unrestricted access to firearms perceived as having a higher risk through endorsements. This escalation of access, based on evidenced behaviour, is similar to the model of access used in most military and police access models.

By identifying the requirements that a person should have to treat a firearm with respect and escalating the access based on evidenced behavior, we ensure the risk of misuse is reduced. Conversely this could be enhanced if we were to identify those who have treated firearms and other people in the past in a manner that would indicate they do not have the level of respect expected from a responsible citizen.

Second is Education - the Mountain Safety Council and some shooting associations run very good training to ensure people are aware of the risks using firearms in different environments.

This could be enhanced by offering courses as an elective option in schools to improve safety amongst the community. This is not a unique proposition, defensive driving courses work on the same principle.

Firearm’s training was a part of school curriculum in the 1950s and may have contributed to the relatively low accident rate at that time.

The last is Regulation – well considered regulations to manage actual risk, rather than perceived risk.

The level of security required for firearms under our current laws is increased as the real risk of mis-use increases. A small firearm, like a pistol, can be concealed easily therefore making them easier to use in the commission of a crime; it is therefore appropriate to require greater security as a control.

I remember as a child playing ‘cops and robbers’ in our street; the children would run around the neighborhood with toy guns playing. In more recent times if young children run around the street with toys guns it has resulted in Police Armed Offenders being called out.

In our opinion there is a heightened sensitively to firearms crime that is not matched by the real experience in New Zealand; it is as a result of the exposure to violence in our homes on TV programs and the news. The incidence of children found with a real loaded firearm on the streets of New Zealand would be at the level of statistical error, the most recent event highlights this is more a rural risk.

We understand there need for fiscal restraint in the current climate. COLFO supports the position that resources should be allocated where there are clear operational requirements to manage real, rather than perceived risk. We believe this can be achieved safely in New Zealand through prevention strategies and empowerment of the population rather than restrictive or reactive legislation and disempowerment.

We believe New Zealand has a model for firearm control that balances cost and safety. We ask you to support COLFO in sending a representative as well as Inspector J Green of the New Zealand Police, to attend the United Nations Program of Action review meeting in New York from the 27th of August, as part of the NZ delegation on firearm controls. COLFO is happy to fund its own attendance, as we believe COLFO has a lot to offer the UN on how cost effective arms control can contribute to a stable society.

Thank you for your time we look forward to meeting you in the future.

Yours faithfully

Michael Dowling