Winston Peters: Government to crack down on illegal weapons

The AM Show 02/04/2019

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has promised the Government will be tougher than ever before on gang members illegally wielding weapons in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks.

On Monday, Peters revealed September 30 as the date an amnesty period will end for illegal guns to be handed into police, including the soon to be banned military-style semi-automatics.

But the Government has already received a challenge from some gang members, who believe owning weapons is necessary to protecting themselves from rival gangs.

"Will gangs get rid of their weapons? No. Because of who we are, we can't guarantee our own safety," Sonny Fatu, president of the Waikato branch of the Mongrel Mob, told Stuff.

But while Peters admitted politicians had previously failed to be strong on issues relating to gangs, he was adamant that after the March 15 attacks, his Government meant business.

"If you are saying we haven't been nearly as responsible as politicians over the decades on the question of military-style weapons, you're right," he told The AM Show.

 "If you are saying we have been weak on certain issues to do with law and order, and guilt by association, which is seriously the case with the gangs because of the collection of legal issues which surround them, you're right.

"But in this case, in 2019, after this disaster, we are for real.

"If your intent is to disobey the law, we are going to ensure that as we pass [new legislation], we have the commitment from Parliament to ensure, for the first time ever, that we will enforce the law."

Peters said after the amnesty period finished, everything that could be done to enforce the new law would be.

"We are giving them good warning, we have an amnesty until the end of September 2019, that's this year, and then we are going to come for people who don't wish to obey the law on these matters," he said.

"It's very clear and that includes the gangs."

When questioned by The AM Show host Duncan Garner on how the Government intended to be effective in its enforcement of the law, noting that patches were still often worn by gang members in some public spaces, Peters took issue with the comparison.

"With the greatest respect Duncan, wise up. Have you seen anyone shot by a patch? Anybody knifed by patch? Anybody murdered by a patch? No. Let's get real here," he said.

"I am saying stop putting up ridiculous contrasts. A patch is a patch, it's a badge, it's different. Maybe it symbolises unlawful behaviour by connection, but it is nothing like having military-style weapons."

Peters said the Government wouldn't turn to illegal methods to find weapons, such as raiding gang pads without evidence guns were there.

"We are a first-world country, with first-world rules and you gotta have clear evidence that what you are looking for is actually there in the sense you can't just go smashing down people's doors on the expectation you might or may not find a gun," he said.

The amnesty period allows anyone, including gang members, who are already illegally possessing the weapons, to come forward.

"Whether you are holding a military-style semi-automatic weapons right now, whether you are holding them legally or illegally, the amnesty will apply to everybody, but after the end of September the law will be enforced," said Peters.

Under the legislation, unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm in a public place would result in seven years imprisonment, and using a prohibited firearm to resist arrest would carry a penalty of 10 years in prison.

The new legislation will have its first reading on Tuesday, and be referred to a Select Committee for public submissions. It will return to Parliament next week to pass through its remaining stages.

It is intended to come into force on April 12, the day after the Royal Assent.

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Jamie Ensor