Offences put gun licence at risk

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 13:00 25/02/2013

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People who hold firearm licences and get in trouble with police for alcohol-related offending in central Nelson, now risk losing their gun licence.

The initiative comes as police say progress has been made curbing drunken disorder in Nelson, but they are not backing off.

Nelson Bays Area Commander Inspector Steve Greally warned firearms licence holders, particularly young men, that coming to police attention could put their licence at risk.

He said he had found that several people arrested for breaching the liquor ban in central Nelson also held firearm licences. He did not have figures available.

Mr Greally said he knew how "precious" firearm licences were to many young men in the Nelson region as hunting was the "recreation of choice".

Those people needed to be aware that legally people had to be considered a "fit and proper person" to hold a licence.

Coming to police attention for alcohol-related offences, or any other offending, could jeopardise that licence, he said.

It could be that they had an alcohol problem, which would mean they were not suitable people to have firearms.

Mr Greally said he believed the move would strike a chord, particularly with young men who valued the right to go hunting.

"We've seen that some of these people don't make any connection between breaching a liquor ban while they're out on the town and their right to own and use firearms. What we're saying to them is that we believe your behaviour in every part of your life needs to be exemplary in order to retain the privilege of a firearms licence," he said.

"I know a licence means a lot to these people and I'm hoping it will also make them stop and think about where and how they are drinking and whether the consequences they could face are worth it."

Mr Greally said a new process had been implemented where licence holders would be flagged as soon as they came to police attention.

"For low-level offending, first time they will get a letter explaining that their behaviour is putting their firearms licence at risk.

If they reoffend they will be up for consideration of revocation."

Serious offenders could find their firearm licences revoked immediately.

Mr Greally said that figures for Tasman Police District, which includes Nelson Bays, Marlborough and the West Coast, showed that 56 people had their firearms licences revoked last year.

This calendar year three people have already been revoked and a further 25 have received a notice of consideration and two have been warned.

Mr Greally said he hoped he did not have to revoke any licences as a result.

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"Here's a problem and how can we prevent people from coming to our attention again. You want to keep your licence, you behave well."

He said the crackdown on alcohol-related offending was going well.

There was still a lot of people on Bridge St, but they were enjoying themselves and having a good time.

However, police could not afford to celebrate success just yet.

"This is an ongoing battle, it always will be with alcohol."

He did not want to send out any letters to people telling them they were at risk of losing their firearm licences, but would if he had to."

Mr Greally said he would talk to area commanders in Marlborough and the West Coast to suggest they look at a similar approach.

- The Nelson Mail

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