Heather Roy

31 March 2019

Tragedies often bring out generous and surprising behaviours from groups we wouldn’t expect. Sometimes these actions or gestures make us question strongly held views we’ve formed over time. It’s moments like these that restore our faith in mankind – temporarily at least.

Such were the scenes following the 15 March atrocity at the Christchurch mosques. Patch wearing members of several gangs at cordons and vigils were seen comforting and offering protection to the Muslim community. They made for heart-warming viewing – compassion from a sector of society normally associated with violence and criminal activity – and I’m sure the sadness and support was largely genuine at that time and setting.

However, journalist Mike Yardley was sceptical in his 26 March article “Despite their sorrow over the terror attacks, NZ gangs have not changed” where he said “let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that gangland is suddenly seeing the error of their pernicious, destructive ways and is mass-converting into a pack of peaceniks.”

It wasn’t long before Yardley was proven correct. Four days in fact. By the end of the week (30 March) gang bosses were announcing that they wouldn’t surrender their weapons.  Predictable of course. According to the gangs, they need their weapons to protect us all from foreign gangs poised to infiltrate the country. There are those do who have legitimate reasons to use semi-automatic weapons, but the gangs are definitely not amongst them.

The government acted swiftly to ensure all of the weapons used in the Mosque massacre were banned, with a second round of legislation to come and perhaps including a gun register. Public support was overwhelming, even from many of those who own MSSA weapons. ACT leader David Seymour cautioned the government (rightly in my view) about the problems with knee-jerk legislation and unintended consequences but the support from parliament was unanimous.

Police Minister Stuart Nash was interviewed on Q+A last week and on the panel discussing the gun ban I raised the issue of the criminal gangs. If the intent of the gun ban is to keep kiwis safe, then the criminal gangs must be the first port of call for the police in enforcing the new weapons laws. It remains to be seen whether this happens or not.

Sadly history has shown that banning things works just with those who already obey the law. Microchipping of dogs is the best example. After several very nasty incidents where dogs mauled small children laws were introduced to ban dangerous breeds and for all dogs to be microchipped. This we were told, would prevent further maulings. It hasn’t, and it those who don’t break the law who have their dogs microchipped, Those with banned and dangerous breeds ignore the law.

It didn’t take the gangs long to show themselves for who they really are. Laws, it seems, are only for the law abiding.