Heather du Plessis-Allan called for gun registration in her column on Sunday. To support her case she reminded readers of Peter Edwards. He was able to buy many guns over 18 months, modify them and then sell them to gangs.
Du Plessis-Allan left out the part about Edwards having had 53 serious criminal convictions in Australia. But our police still gave him a gun licence because they fail to data match with our cousins across the pond.
That horror case was now five years ago. Police initially told me the situation was remedied and such an incident could not be repeated. When pressed, they finally admitted nothing has been done. At all. They are still, "developing a policy".
At the time of the crime the Herald reported "record-keeping" was the problem. No. The problem is much greater than that. Edward's sentence for this horrific firearm offending was only two years and eight months. This despite refusing to help police locate any of the guns. Despite putting the public at horrific and ongoing risk.
So what is the true scale of the problem? Police have confirmed that at least 1132 Australian criminals have been given a New Zealand firearms licence. Because of a lack of data matching, at least 36 then went on to commit a firearms offence.
I understand this number covers only deportations. So there will be many, many more cases. Even Australian criminals who have been specifically banned from owning firearms in their own country, can just come here and arm up. Today.
This begs the question, if our Customs and Immigration services can search for the criminal records of every applicant – then why can't the NZ Police? Why are the police always a decade behind every other government department?
I have raised the matter with the Prime Minister and her Police Minister, Stuart Nash. My letters were ignored.
We can add this inexcusable failure to the police failing to follow up on thousands of expired firearm licences. When I last checked in 2017 there were 6727 such expired licences. It was confirmed that thousands were "awaiting action".
Oh and then there is the small matter of police losing 25,000 shooters. Read that again. Lost from their records at the last big law change because it was a "bespoke project" they were only formally revoked in 2007 with no follow up.
At the time of the last Parliamentary inquiry into the criminal misuse of guns our police also admitted 29 known gang members had a current firearms licence.
This is the same service now wanting to register all firearms. Despite having to abandon the last system due to a 66 per cent inaccuracy rate. Yet their police union even wants to register the sales of ammunition.
We will soon have a serious conversation about our gun laws. Many aspects of them are the best in the world. But the sad truth is that we have been repeatedly let down by the police management of these systems. For many decades.
This coming conversation will need to include removing management of the Arms Act from the police. A petition is about to be presented to Parliament to achieve just that result.
We should let the police get on with police work. A new authority would simply be run like the NZ Transport Agency and have oversight like the Children's Commissioner. Easy.
Whatever form the change takes, the massive ball drops that we have seen so far cannot be allowed to continue. The tourist terrorism that broke our hearts this week must never be repeated.
• Mike Loder is a competitive shooter and Auckland-based campaigner for the realistic sentencing of firearm offenders. He has researched international control measures for over 25 years.