Cook Islands Police Disappointed In Slow Response To Unregistered Gun Amnesty

Public has three months to surrender firearms or register them without penalty

By Cameron Scott 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Feb. 21, 2017) – The Cook Islands Police Service is disappointed at the slow response to the three-month arms amnesty launched in January.

Owners of unregistered guns were offered a three-month amnesty period in which they can make their firearms legal or hand them over to the police.

However, Inspector John Strickland said response to the offer had so far been very slow and police were concerned that there were still large numbers of unregistered firearms whose owners had made no moves to make them legal. 

The amnesty was also an opportunity for owners to have their guns checked to make sure they were still safe to use, he said.

“We are very disappointed. We’ve given people a whole three months to hand in their firearms and if they don’t do anything about it, after April 7, anyone caught with an unregistered gun or who owns a firearm but hasn’t got a licence, will be prosecuted. 

“Everyone who owns a firearm should also have a licence. We also want to emphasise that the amnesty also applies to air rifles. People should realise that the rules aren’t the same here as in New Zealand, where anyone over 18 can own most air rifles without a licence.”

Strickland said the amnesty also extended to the Pa Enua, where again, response had been much less than anticipated.

He said firearms legislation applied throughout the Cook Islands and Pa Enua residents needed to be aware of the dangers of owning unregistered guns.

The amnesty was launched in January by Police minister Teariki Heather who said the government wanted to make the Cook Islands a safer place. The decision to hold an amnesty was partly to do with the fatal triple shooting on Rarotonga in October last year, he added.

A firearms survey conducted four years ago ago showed there were 57 firearms in the Northern Group, 480 in the Southern Group and 2040 on Rarotonga.

However, sources have told CI News the number of guns has increased by at least 400, putting the number of firearms at about 3000. 

Some sources have claimed that the illegal importation of guns is commonplace.

Strickland said with Rarotonga becoming more built up there were fewer places where it was safe to fire guns and owners needed to be fully aware of firearms regulations and the need for safety.

Weapons can be brought to three locations to be checked, on three different days. On Mondays the location is the National Police Headquarters, on Wednesdays at the Puaikura police station and on Fridays at the Takitumu police office in Muri.

Pa Enua residents should bring their firearms to their local police station. 

Cook Islands News
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