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Worried officers believe they need to be armed amid surge of violence — Police Association president

Worried police officers want to be actively armed amid an apparent surge of gun-related violence, according to the Police Association.

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Chris Cahill says police need to get the firearms out of the hands of gang members. Source: Breakfast

Within the last week, police have published details of two alleged firearms incidents: a "serious incident" in Gore yesterday which saw the armed offenders squad called out but no arrests, and a dairy owner shot in the leg in Auckland during a robbery.

Police weren't able to confirm the total number of reported firearms incidents in the last week, nor were they able to provide figures on how that compares to previous figures, when contacted by 1 NEWS today.

On Breakfast today, Police Association president Chris Cahill said New Zealand is "certainly" seeing an increase in firearms violence. 

"Our members were saying for many years there are a lot more firearms in the hands of criminals. But now we're seeing them being used," he says.

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"You're seeing it almost daily now. It used to be weekly but now it's almost daily. That's the big change — they're actually pulling the trigger now."

Cahill did not provide any figures backing up his claim.

Figures published by the Small Arms Survey in 2018, provided by "expert estimates", show there are around 1.2 million firearms held by registered firearms owners in New Zealand.

Around 12,000 are considered "unregistered" — held by people without a valid firearms licence.

Police officers currently have firearms accessible from their patrol vehicles and the armed offenders squad, consisting of specially trained and armed officers, is also called out to incidents.

However, Cahill says worried officers want to carry firearms on their person.

"The members I represent are saying they're seeing the dangers out there, they're saying they need to be [armed]. Not want to be, need to be. Because of that risk," he says.

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However, Andrew Coster tried to step clear of talking to the specifics of police's controversial armed response teams trial. Source: 1 NEWS

Officers in Canterbury are currently armed amid high gang tensions which saw a high profile Mongrel Mob member shot.

Cahill says the call to arms is "not as simple as saying, 'Put a gun on their hip.'

"You've got to look at training. You've got to look at deployment," he says, citing the trial of armed response teams.

Police scrapped plans for the controversial armed unit and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has publicly ruled them out while he's in charge.

“It is clear to me that these response teams do not align with the style of policing that New Zealanders expect," Coster said last year.

Among the issues raised were concerns it would amplify escalation by having armed officers confront incidents, a lack of paperwork by officers involved in the crime, and the teams largely responding to regular incidents rather than firearms events.

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New Zealand Police were aware the trial was flawed before it began, according to documents obtained by 1 NEWS in May.

In contrast, Cahill says it was a "good system" that needed some finessing.

He's also continuing his long-standing campaign for a gun registry in New Zealand; one has been authorised in law, but has yet to come into action.

While there currently isn't a specific gun register linking firearms with their licensed owners, gun stores are already required to log purchases to a valid firearms licence.

Cahill wants to see a "multi-pronged" plan to target firearms violence.

"Police now have a big role to play in getting in front of criminals that have the firearms as well. We've got to make sure we're hitting those gang members, getting the search warrants. We've got some laws that we'd also like," Cahill says.

"And on top of that, the courts have a part to play. The courts need to play their part with society saying firearms crime's growing, it's increasing, it's dangerous, if people are convicted of offences, they're going to get significant penalties."

Those convicted of unlicensed possession of a non-prohibited firearm face jail terms of up to a year or a fine of up to $15,000.