The Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO) says piecemeal publication of firearm crime data masks incompetent data collection by Police, increases public firearm fear, and hides the failure of the firearm confiscation programme.
A story this week by the NZ Herald tries to make the best of data obtained from a Police database started in 2019, pretentiously called the ‘Gun Safe’ project. The data was promised to be public and easily accessible to help guide policy.
COLFO Spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack said the data has not been regularly released in full, forcing media and stakeholders like COLFO to request data under the Official Information Act.
“The failure to consistently record and report firearm data is a dangerous embarrassment.”
The GunSafe data includes all manner of events, even callouts where firearms are never found. Even the Police Association noted in 2020 that recording of events is erratic.
Data reliability is undermined by broad criteria that leads to ‘events’ being entered into the GunSafe system. Entries include times a firearm is suspected but not present, times where there is a ‘perceived firearms risk’ but no actual firearm involved, times a subject is known to have a firearm – but Police do not encounter one, and for events when there is something that looks like a real firearm, but isn’t. This means even courtesy visits to a licensed firearm owner’s home can be classified as an ‘event’ within the system, inflating the numbers unnecessarily. These Gun Safe numbers have been used to argue for general armament of police which COLFO and other organisations spoke out against.
Event details are either combined in rough categories or inputted into free text fields which Police noted in an OIA response to COLFO last year, made it too time consuming to formulate into more useful data.
“This poor reporting has created an unnecessary fear of licensed firearm owners, and misdirected efforts to deal with criminal use of firearms.
“It has prevented the public from seeing that despite Government promises that the grandiose firearm confiscation would make New Zealanders safer, firearm crime has continued unchanged.
“It has prevented the public from seeing the inability of Police to collect this data.
“Because of the inconsistent Gun Safe reporting framework, the data has possibly hidden a failure to catch and prosecute enough criminals who have firearms, and lays a poor foundation for costly new legislation” Devereux-Mack says.
COLFO supports frontline officers and their work on operation Tauwhiro which is necessary to tackle criminal use of firearms. Devereux-Mack says this is where Police should be investing their efforts and not the administration of the firearms licensing system where Police have shown that they are an inefficient disaster.
For further information contact: Hugh Devereux-Mack. 027 362 0853