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Police propose charging firearms owners to investigate gun burglaries

See the original article published 5/February/2023 on STUFF.co.nz here:

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/131139427/police-propose-charging-firearms-owners-to-investigate-gun-burglaries?


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Gun owners could have to pay police to attend if their firearms are stolen in a burglary under a new proposal. The suggestion comes as police review firearms license fees, which have not changed in more than two decades. Police are proposing raising the licensing fee by nearly 500%. Gun groups and the ACT party have both suggested charging firearms owners for police to attend the loss, theft or burglary of a firearm is a breach of the Arms Act.


Council of Licensed Firearm Owners spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack called on Police Minister Stuart Nash to rethink the proposal, saying it breached the current law.


“This breaks section 80 of the Arms Act, which states that activities subject to cost recovery do not include the response of the police to calls relating to potential offending.”


Devereux-Mack said the Government needed to step in, as charging gun owners who had been burgled was unreasonable.


“If this passes, it will be inevitable that other communities could be targeted to pay the cost of burglary investigations after they suffer a loss. This establishes a precedent for user pays policing.


“There’s no filter, no balance, and no attempt to create reasonable rules. No-one seems to run the proposals against the Arms Act to check if they are lawful.”

It’s part of a wider review into fees for firearms users, including how much of the processing cost should be passed on to licence holders: 25%, 50%, or 75%.


Since 1999, firearms users have been charged $126.50 for a licence. If 75% of the processing cost is passed on, a first-time applicant would then have to shell out $625.50 for a five-year licence, and a 10-year renewal would cost $727.50.


Some hunting advocates warned the increase could encourage some to hide their guns in a mate’s cabinet to avoid paying, or lead to some users skipping the vetting process and safety course to hunt without a licence.


A Police spokesperson said the proposed fee increases are only in the consultation stage at this point. However the fees in case of a burglary did not breach the Arms Act.


The Section 80(2)(b) of the Arms Act specifies the activities that are not eligible for cost recovery, they were: Police to calls relating to potential offending, the conduct of criminal investigations; or the prosecution of criminal offences.


Devereux-Mack believed two other proposed fee changes came very close to breaking the Arms Act too. Dealers, collectors, museums, and all other endorsement holders could pay for police to check their security measures where a theft or burglary of firearms had occurred.


Licenced firearm owners would also have to pay police to update their records if their home or premises had been burgled.


Devereux-Mack said this was a double standard compared with other burglaries, such ramraids at dairies.


“It’s a small step away from paying for car theft investigations through your vehicle licence, whether or not police find it, or are even willing to look.” Devereux-Mack said the proposed fees were excessive and appeared to charge users twice.


“Police want to charge victims full price for police attendance at the scene of a burglary, and for the bookkeeping afterwards. This can be viewed as re-victimisation.”


The review is happening because authorities realised the regulation of firearms was under resourced following the 2019 terror attack in Christchurch.


The Government’s 2022 Budget then promised $208m over four years to establish a new police firearms business unit.


The Government had previously been covering much of the licence processing costs itself. It spent $115.2 million in the last 10 years, while firearms users contributed just $26.4m. It is not known when a decision on the new fees would be made. ACT’s firearms reforms spokesperson, Nicole McKee, said the proposal was equivalent to charging a victim for an investigation into a crime committed against them.

“Licensed firearms owners deserve the same rights as any other victim of crime. They go through many checks and balances to be able to legally own their firearms – they should not be treated as if they are in the wrong for doing so.


“The police should be encouraging people to report stolen firearms, not charging them a fee.”


McKee suggested taking firearms law and administrative duty away from police, and introducing a new firearms law.


“This means the police can focus on dealing with actual criminals, instead of treating licenced firearms owners like criminals”


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