Gangs and guns: Waikato Mongrel Mob claims crackdown ‘racism’ and ‘dog whistle politics’

Giving police greater powers to go after gangs and their guns was racist and would breach human rights including freedom of association, the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom says.

The kingdom’s public relations liaison Louise Hutchinson had fiery exchanges with National MPs this morning as she appeared before Parliament’s justice committee.

The committee is considering the Arms (Firearms Prohibition Orders) Amendment Bill (No 2), from National MP Simeon Brown, which would ban gang members from 37 specified gangs from holding a firearms licence.

It would also allow the Police Commissioner to make 600-odd gang members – convicted of serious offences – subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order, which would give police greater powers to search them, their vehicles and property for firearms.

The bill passed its first reading last term with the support of National and NZ First and is unlikely to pass into law as it is opposed by Labour and the Greens.

Hutchinson told the committee that the current law already requires people to be “fit and proper” before being able to have a firearms licence.

“This bill is racist in its intent and it clearly targets Maori, Pasifika and ethnic minorities already disproportionately impacted by crime and victimisation.”

She said it impinged on the right to associate, as a gathering with someone subject to an FPO would put other people at risk of being in the presence of a police search.

“Clamp down on crime, yes. If a gang is doing crime, lock them up. But don’t assume that people who form or join a roopu are all breaking the law and are there to intimidate you.”

“The kingdom believes what in fact is driving gun violence, coupled with the illegal drug trade in New Zealand, is poverty.

“Dog whistle politics are great at playing on people’s fears and anxieties but not so good at solving any problems .. If you want to fix gun violence and its associated issues, fix poverty.”

Brown told Hutchinson that her submission felt like a PR exercise.

“When are your members going to hand in their firearms and stop selling meth, which destroys lives in our community?”

He said there had been a lot of publicity about the reforms the kingdom’s leader Sonny Fatu was trying to put in place, but “until you stop selling meth to the community across New Zealand and hand in your guns, I’m not going to believe it”.

Hutchinson responded by telling Brown to come to the Waikato to see for himself, adding that Fatu didn’t have any guns.

Brown: “Twenty-nine members were arrested last year with illegal firearms – Waikato Mongrel Mob.”

Hutchinson: “That was not the Mongrel Mob kingdom. There’s different chapters, Simeon.”

She then clashed with National MP Simon Bridges after he cited media stories where Fatu said he wouldn’t hand in illegal firearms because they were needed for their own protection.

“Why should we take anything you say seriously if he doesn’t take the laws of this land seriously?” Bridges asked.

Hutchinson: “Many New Zealanders realise not all things reported in media is actually accurate.”

Bridges: “How many illegal guns have your members got?”

Hutchinson: “Is this a PR stunt for you, Simon? … If police have proof that there are guns in our organisation, do you not think people would’ve been arrested by now? You’re questioning my integrity.”

The Government has been considering what to do about FPOs since the March 15 mosque attacks and a spokeswoman for Police Minister Poto Williams confirmed that work is ongoing.

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