Police are not denying a claim that armed officers entered a family home in search of an illegal firearm that had already been handed in.
Parliament's finance and expenditure committee this morning quizzed the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) and police about the OAG's report on the Government's gun buyback scheme, set up after the Government outlawed most military-style semi-automatic firearms followingthe March 15 terror attacks last year.
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Only Act leader David Seymour voted against the ban. He asked Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement about an armed police "raid" on a family in their home, with children present, in search of a firearm that had already been handed in, and another raid where the firearm being sought was not banned.
Clement said it was "dramatic" to call it a "raid". "If there was a separation from what I would see was an acceptable approach to a property where we were concerned about safety with regard to firearms, then that's been investigated."
He said police had a "mature and appropriate" approach to safety when it came to dealing with firearms.
"Any complaints made to us either have or will be properly investigated. I'm not aware of any that are unreconciled."
AOG parliamentary group manager Henry Broughton commended police for its handling of the scheme, but said firearms were discharged at two buy-back events. "[It] was very lucky that happened in areas that were contained and the public wasn't present, but nonetheless two quite serious incidents."
Broughton said it was hard to say if the buy-back had been "value for money" or had made New Zealand safer without knowing how many such firearms remained in circulation.
Estimates ranged from 55,000 to 240,000 before the buy-back. About 60,000 were handed in, meaning up to 180,000 such firearms could be still out there.
"I have no idea," Clement told the committee when asked for his best estimate.
"I wish I did. I'm rather sceptical of the top end number but, to be fair, I cannot say. Regrettably for us all, that's the honest truth."
The OAG recommended police get a better view of the total number of such firearms still out there.
Clement said police had considered going through imports and customs data to get a better idea of the number of newly banned firearms there were in New Zealand, but had decided it wasn't worth the effort for "low confidence" information.
National MP Brett Hudson pushed Clement on whether the imports and customs data could have given a clearer picture.
Clement: "I accept that ought to be the case but the advice time and again is that it's not the case."
One of the reasons was that the information was paper-based, he said, but also retailers who applied for a permit to bring in thousands of firearms might not actually do so. It may not have been a waste of time to go through that data, but he said there was no certainty that it would have yielded any useful and reliable information.
He said "over time" police hoped to get a better idea of how many guns were out there, including having a national gun register, which would be set up as part of the second tranche of gun law reforms, now stalled.
"It's a challenge for all jurisdictions. We all want to know what the size of the fleet is," Clement said.
Police are confronted by firearms 200 times every month and Clement, who is retiring soon after 42 years of police service, said he was pleased that the Government had acted in the immediate aftermath of the March 15 terror attacks.
"These abhorrent events require us to do something, and I'm very grateful for the Prime Minister having started the process."