Following on from the Kawerau siege, Labour has called for an inquiry into the hidden and illegal gun market. Spokesperson Stuart Nash says that the time is right for an independent look into gun culture in NZ, a discussion which he says needs to go beyond a “purely law and order perspective”.
Part time PM John Key reckons there’s nothing to see here, move on, oh look, there’s something shiny over there.
Nash is correct that we need to look at how criminals are getting hold of weapons. And we need to recognise that that further arming the police is not the answer.
This is a supply and demand issue. Any inquiry should look at ways of cutting the supply, for sure. But the also inquiry needs to identify why there is the demand for weapons in the first place. Particularly, we need to know why criminals are arming themselves.
It appears that the Kawerau seige followed on from a routine Police anti-cannabis cultivation operation. Presumably, the gun or guns were a deterrent to anyone thinking of raiding the crop, be that law enforcement or just other crims trying to rip the dope off.
To be blunt, if cannabis was not illegal in NZ, then these four police officers would not have been shot. If it was legal to possess and grow marijuana, then there would not be police operations of this nature and the criminal gangs who currently profit from drug dealing would find their customer base thinning considerably. So why aren’t we legalising marijuana?
The experience in the Netherland, Portugal and some US states is that decriminalisation and the treatment of drug use as a health issue, not a legal matter, leads to less use overall and much, much less criminality.
So, by all means look at the black market in guns. But lets also address the wider problem that we have of criminalising a large minority of kiwis for what is a mostly harmless intoxicant, forcing smokers to interact peripherally with gangs and making those criminals think it’s sensible to protect their sources of profit with firearms.
If we free the weed, we can free up our police to catch real criminals and we can strike a blow against both gun culture and gang culture at the same time. So what’s stopping us?