When the guns came into the house, I didn't bat an eyelid. I'd been immersed in the gang scene doing research for five years at that stage. I was only worried about guns when they were aimed in my direction.
The gang members in the room with me weren't fussed either. The four guns were placed on the table and everyone kept chatting. After a few minutes I went to the table and picked one up, turning it over in my hands. It was a lever-action rifle, a type I'd only ever seen in old cowboy movies.
"Interesting gun," I said, because I had nothing intelligent to say on the matter.
One wag turned to me and said: "It's great we've got some other fingerprints on that."
Everyone in that room chortled. Except me. I just lifted a nervous smile. While it was clearly a joke, a short while later I quietly wiped that gun down with the bottom of my T-shirt.
Guns in the wrong hands are a real problem, but it is a far bigger issue than the gangs. The person who shot and killed Constable Matthew Hunt was not a gang member and neither was the Australian who carried out the terror attack in Christchurch.
Recent shootings have raised the question of having Kiwi cops routinely carry guns on their hips. It's a step fraught with difficulties, given how many police in overseas jurisdictions are killed with their own weapons, and the inevitability that tense or violent interactions which police currently have will lead to more fatal ones.
Given the general nature of New Zealand's policing – as opposed to that in US, for example – nobody would prefer the latter to the former. But if we want to maintain our current state, we have to do all we can to mitigate the concerns that frontline police rightly have. As is the case with many elements of criminal justice issues, prevention is preferable to action. And it's our collective responsibility to enable that.
Guns get into the underworld through a variety of means, but a significant way is through licensed firearm owners selling them to unlicensed people. It's a big problem because we have no way of knowing who's doing that and where the guns end up.
A firearms registry will help solve that. It would mean that we know where each gun is and when it is bought and sold. We shouldn't just welcome the move, we should applaud it.
Is it a panacea to solve all of the problems of gun violence? Of course not. But it is a valuable addition to the tool kit which has also seen improved vetting and the ban of certain weapon types.
Tracking who has firearms and how many – when it comes to confiscating guns from people when there is reason to do so, or attending a police call-outs at a house – is a good idea, but it will also strangle the flow of guns from nefarious gun licence holders.
The politics of it is difficult. The New Zealand gun lobby is strong and influential. Moves of this kind have been thwarted since being proposed by Sir Thomas Thorp in 1997 after the Aramoana massacre.
I understand the concerns and arguments of lawful gun owners. I genuinely feel for those shooters – great New Zealanders and law abiding citizens – who just enjoy firing off rounds at a range; and that enjoyment has been curtailed by bans of certain weapons. It feels to them like they're under siege. But beat cops, too, feel under siege, and on balance those issues are bigger, not just for police but for all of us.
Furthermore, a registry – this small step – is not a great hardship for firearm holders and it will mean, in many instances, that stolen firearms from good people will be returned to their rightful owners.
The Government has passed legislation that enables the registry. The National Party is lukewarm on the idea. The Act party gained significant traction from the gun lobby after the measures put in place since the Christchurch terror attack (which National supported) and now have members of the lobby as MPs. Given recent polling, National will feel obliged to speak against it. Indeed, if National returned to power before the implementation it's likely the gun registry will be scuppered, but if it were in place I understand they won't wind it back.
Given that, let's see it happen quickly and support it.
All cars are registered, in the European Union all cows are registered, it's not a big ask to have our firearms registered.
I wiped my fingerprints off that gun in the gang house, but our collective fingerprints should be all over a gun registry. We should feel strongly about being connected to it. If we don't take positive action on the issues facing the police, then inevitably they will – and that will mean they will arm.
That will not only change the police; it will change New Zealand.
• Dr Jarrod Gilbert is the Director of Criminal Justice at the University of Canterbury.>