HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Police reviewing firearms laws
Some 2,000 people in the Cook Islands hold Police permits to own firearms. That’s more than 10 percent of the population. Many of these permit holders own more than one firearm.
With these sorts of statistics, the likelihood of serious firearms related offences is a concern for a public worried about the rise in local criminal activity.
The recent case where firearms were burgled by a teenager from a home while the owners were overseas and which were later recovered by Police, has had some citizens worried about overseas trends and “copy cat” shootings and drug fuelled gunmen shooting people at random.
However, Police Inspector John Strickland who is working on the “Cook Islands Firearms Registration Review” told the Herald on Tuesday while the number of firearms in the country is quite high, the public should not be concerned as such events are unlikely in the Cook Islands.
He said Police have no plans to give the matter wider media publicity or to carry spot checks of current firearms owners and their security arrangements.
He said if firearms owners take proper precautions in terms of secure storage, separate storage of ammunition and firearms and the dismantling of the firearm, this makes it more difficult for the thieves.
Strickland advised the Review was started in 2011 and involves a small committee made up mainly of Cook Islanders who are ex-army and current RSA members.
Strickland said he envisaged bringing the existing legislation more closely into line with the New Zealand requirements.
Under the current legislation , the Arms Ordinance 1954-55, a permit is required from Police to own a firearm or bring one into the country. However, there have been no imports of firearms for nearly two years. The Minister made a decision on the advice of Police not to allow any more firearms into the country. Police say there are too many firearms in the country at present, predominantly .22 rifles and 12 gauge shotguns. A firearm owner however requires a Police permit to import ammunition. There are no retail outlets selling ammunition. Any change of ownership of a firearm must also be notified to Police.
Under the current legislation and unlike NZ, there is no test/exam or set rules. People just have to be of good character and have no criminal convictions. A permit holder must be over 16 yrs of age. Permits issued by Cook Islands Police are a lifetime permit as there is no time limit to the permit. Strickland says he is considering a five year term on a permit.
In NZ an applicant for a firearms license must study a safety booklet and attend a safety lecture by the Mountain Safety Council after which they sit a test conducted by Police. They must also have good character references.
Strickland is looking for a similar set up here but for applicants to have a good practical knowledge of the firearm and safe handling when cleaning, dismantling and transporting it. They should also have separate secure, safe storage at home for the firearm and its ammunition.
Pistols and semi-automatic firearms are not permitted.

Strickland says there are some 2,000 people who hold firearms permits and many possess more than one firearm. Many have a rifle and a shot gun. Their predominant use is for hunting, for example Bats.
No spot checks are carried out by Police of the permit holder’s security arrangements. According to Strickland there is no need for such checks at this time.
An interesting aspect is that the legal definition of a firearm includes air guns.
According to Strickland, the maximum penalties under the Arms Ordinance are up to 3 months imprisonment or a fine of up to 50 pounds ($100).
There was an arms amnesty in November last year when NZ Navy personnel also checked and cleaned firearms.
According to Strickland there are no registered Gun Collectors in the Cook Islands.
There is no Gun Club on Rarotonga, no public shooting range where owners can go and no person or organization offering training in the proper use and care of firearms. -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 608 21 March
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- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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