National MP Chris Bishop has defended a Facebook post in which he celebrated the apparent dumping of police plans to centralise firearms licensing with an image of himself at a shooting range.
The post, on February 20, said he'd been told police had backed down on its plan which would have seen regional firearms administration roles disestablished.
Bishop called it a victory and posted a picture of himself shooting a gun.
Bishop said today that what he had been celebrating was the dumping of a policy he said would get rid of experienced police staff and water down gun controls.
The photo, he said, was taken at the Auckland Shooting Club. He did not have a firearms licence and the shooting was done under strict supervision.
Bishop, who is National's police spokesman, began a series of public meetings around the country last October to gather feedback on a party firearms policy for 2020.
"One of the areas National got criticised for in the 2017 election was not having a detailed firearms policy," he said.
"At the time we launched it, [Police Minister] Stuart Nash said the Government was going to do a review of the Arms Act so I thought it would be a good way of schooling the National Party up on how we respond to that."
One of the areas Bishop was particularly critical of was the proposed shake-up of firearms oversight by police.
Under the proposal, which is still officially on the table, Police would disestablish more than 80 roles in firearms control in the regions and centrally.
They would be replaced with a central hub in Kapiti staffed by 47 staff, with one field officer in each major policing area – a total of 36.
Bishop said he believed the measures would water down the safety aspects of the current regime and there had been no public consultation.
"The licensed firearms community was furious with the police proposal to basically get rid of all the experienced firearms officers and licence vetters.
"They were also excluded from the consultation process," he said.
"We were protesting against a loosening of the firearms regime, the exact opposite of what people seem to think."
Bishop was one of a number of MPs who offered condolences in Parliament today.
He agreed guns laws must change in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings.
"Something is wrong when someone can have access to so much lethality and so much power and commit such crimes. As a Parliament, we must ensure that can never happen again," he said.
In a statement, Acting Superintendent Mike McIlraith, officer in charge of the Arms Act Service Delivery Group, said police had reviewed the administration of the Arms Act, which was more than 30 years old, paper-based, manual, and at times inconsistent across districts.
"We reviewed it with both our firearms staff and the community. They told us we need to make changes.
"Any final decision will reflect government intent. It will be managed by the appropriate number of staff, and services will be provided where ever people need them. This will be supported by modern electronic systems and more consistent services.
"Police wants a structure focused on both improving our service and ensuring it is aligned to our mission to be the safest country."