Prior to the draft legislation under whatever the Arms Bill will be called (I’m betting something poncey sounding), I thought I’d discuss the ‘elephant in the room’ for New Zealand when violence happens (whether a terrorist incident or just bog standard violence). We are, with little exception, entirely reliant on our police force to provide anything beyond a fisty-cuff response. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (there are downsides to the alternatives), but what I find so surprising about the response to Christchurch is the complete and utter lack of a debate around actual measures to allow people, organisations, etc. defend themselves (which would actually achieve stopping, or limiting, certain types of events).
Before getting into the more complex discussion around allowing for greater security measures, a few basic points:
(1) We are not allowed to carry or possess arms for self-defence;
(2) This includes security officers; and
(3) It includes reasonably moderate weapons (such as Tasers and pepper spray).
These things, unto themselves, won’t stop all attack types (a lorry smashing into a crowded place isn’t likely to be affected by guards wielding Taser), but it would certainly reduce the utter helplessness everyone else has when someone has a stick, gun, or other personal weapon. However, on the downside of things, if you start arming (or allowing to be armed) every man, woman, and their dogs, you’ll get more misuse of weapons (even if just Tasering people who annoy them). So it’s not a silver bullet, unfortunately.
Now, that said, my suggestion would be (to avert major terrorist attacks, as occurred, not necessarily our more run of the mill issues) that we allow certain additional armaments for qualified security officers. I do not propose this lightly or in an unlimited capacity. My suggestion / opinion would be as follows:
(1) We allow for an additional classification of person under the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act 2010, deemed ‘Armed Security Officers’, who are allowed to possess (while working) certain types of weapons (pepper spray, Tasers, and under strict circumstances, shotguns). This classification would require specific certification, additional training, on-going re-certification, and maintain employment with a certified security firm (so we’re not talking about every security officer suddenly wielding weapons).
(2) This would require that Tasers and pepper spray be re-classified from Restricted Weapons to a new Security category (Category S). Armed Security Officers would be allowed to possess such weapons, while on duty, and would be liable for their use, but with self-defence (including the defence of others) as justification.
(3) The possession and use of firearms is a bit more tricky, but where a security firm can show justification for a high risk location (with Police approval), and with an alarmed weapons cabinet (any access to the cabinet should trigger an armed police response, or if for cleaning and inspection, a police officer being present), then shotguns (as a short range, but highly effective, solution) should be allowed. The armed security officers in question would have to hold an endorsement, with additional on-going training, to be able to work at such a location.
I am not entirely enamoured with the idea of arming security officers, as we’ve had a peaceful society (for the most part), which hasn’t been prone to such extremist nonsense. But, equally, I don’t want people coming here and terrorising/killing us either (or, lest we be too complacent, someone from here doing it). So a measured response, which will reduce actual harm, would be a nice change (compared with all the chest-beating and grief porn that seems to be going on instead).