Calls for tougher gun laws after Quinn Patterson guns down a mother and daughter

Quinn Patterson gunned down a mother and daughter in rural Northland on Wednesday.
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Quinn Patterson gunned down a mother and daughter in rural Northland on Wednesday.

A cash incentive firearms amnesty and compulsory licensing could stop innocent people being gunned down, a law expert says.

That call comes after Quinn Patterson shot three people, killing two, in Whangarei on Wednesday.

Police had rejected Patterson's application for a firearms license, yet the troubled man still managed to amass a "a number of firearms", police said on Friday.

"How he came to acquire these firearms is clearly a concern, and an important focus of the investigation."

READ MORE:
* Quinn Patterson's final goodbye to his sister
* Government announces plans to strengthen gun control laws
* Tougher new gun control laws proposed to tackle gang members, ammunition rules
* Parliament to hold inquiry into New Zealand gun laws
* Police won't lay charges but du Plessis-Allan still potentially under the gun

The tragedy has led to renewed calls for greater gun control laws that go further than the changes currently proposed by the Government. 

Waikato University professor Alexander Gillespie – who is among those calling for tougher rules – said it was lucky Patterson only killed two people.

"Had he decided to have his bad day in the middle of Whangarei as opposed to [his property] you could be looking at a death toll of dozens."

Patterson shot Wendy Campbell and her daughter Natanya dead, and injured contractor Jeff Pipe, before he himself died as the house went up in flames.

Gillespie said those types of shootings would happen again unless the country got tougher on gun law.

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It was not known how many firearms were illegally held, but the criminal fraternity alone was estimated to have between 10,000 and 25,000 guns, he said. This estimate comes from the 1997 Thorp report.

He recommended a cash incentive set up to encourage people to surrender guns before they ended up in dangerous hands.

"The practise overseas is not just a gun amnesty but to put some money on the table."

He said the amount of money offered depended on the risk associated with that type of gun.

Gillespie also supported the registering of all weapons so they could be tracked.

Some categories of weapons, such as pistols and military-style weapons, needed to be registered but there was no register for the remaining weapons, some of which could be converted to military-style weapons.

"It's about access to a register where there is traceability and accountability for every firearm. Otherwise you don't know where the guns go."

The triple shooting comes after a recent select committee inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms.

In June, Police Minister Paula Bennett rejected 12 of the 20 recommendations from the select committee's inquiry.

The proposed changes agreed upon include banning gang members and their prospects from legally owning a gun.

Bennett said the rejected recommendations, including recording serial numbers, would not have made a difference in a case like the Whangarei shooting.

"I was very careful to look at the safety of New Zealanders. The vast majority of firearms users in New Zealand are responsible and follow the law.

"I believe we have the right balance between public safety and the rights of legal firearms owners."

However, Police Association president Chris Cahill said the Government needed to do more.

"They didn't take any of the meatier recommendations. They took the easy ones," he said. 

"We're not saying it would change things overnight, but it would be a start."

Cahill said he supported the registering of all firearms.

Association members were making daily reports of finding firearms – including sawn-off shotguns, revolvers, pistols, double-barrel shotguns, and ammunition – in criminals' hands, he said.

"The community has a right to feel safe. If they knew the risk and the number of firearms out there they just wouldn't feel safe."

But Gun City owner David Tipple said firearm legislation was working and if a person was determined to kill, they did not require a gun.

"[Patterson] had a sick thought. How can you stop that sick thought?

"If you take away the means would the person be safe? I don't think so because they would use a truck or a knife."

Friends and family of Patterson have described a man suffering from depression.

Patterson's sister Gloria said he was not in a fit mental state.

"I knew that he wasn't in a good place but I didn't know that he would do what he did. I didn't know what would happen, but suicide was definitely there."

Friend Leah Cameron also commented on Patterson's depression, saying there was a crisis in New Zealand in mental health.

"There [are] a lot of people out there suffering with depression and look what happens if they don't get the care and help they need, they lose the plot and lash out."

Work was underway to develop policy around the gun law recommendations the Government approved. The case was due to go before Cabinet for approval later this year.

WHAT DID POLICE KNOW?

Patterson was in possession of firearms, but Police have not released details on the types or amount of guns.

He had applied for a firearms license, which Police rejected.

Police did not respond to media questions on whether Patterson was ever investigated for firing guns or possessing firearms.

Questions on whether they received other complaints regarding Patterson also went unanswered.

Police Minister Paula Bennett said there needed to be a full investigation into how Patterson got hold of firearms.

Patterson stabbed Hamilton police dog handler Bruce Howatt in 1983. He was sentenced to 18 months for causing grievous bodily harm.

UNLICENSED GUN HOLDERS

It's not the first time gun control laws have hit the headlines.

Reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan exposed a gun law loophole after she purchased a gun online without a license for an episode of Story in 2015.

Police moved to shut down the loophole following the report.

Police investigated du Plessis-Allan, but decided against laying charges.

Gunman Jan Molenaar shot Senior Constable Len Snee dead and wounded three others in Napier in 2009.

Molenaar had 18 military-style firearms in his house. No-one knew about the stash and his gun licence had expired.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

NOTE:

This story has been update to clarify the at the estimate of illegal guns is based on the 1997 Thorp report. Police state: There are substantial difficulties in estimating the number of firearms in possession of criminals, including gangs, both in NZ and Australia. The1997 Thorp Report found clear evidence of  a substantial pool of illegally-held firearms periodically refreshed by purchases, theft and burglary and illegal imports. Using a specially designed methodology, the Thorp report estimated the number to be between 10,000 and 25,000, but potentially greater. No additional formal estimates have been undertaken since this time.

 - Stuff

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