RAROTONGA,06 APRIL 2017 (COOK ISLANDS NEWS) — The Cook Islands ranks as the sixth most armed population in the south west Pacific – that University of Sydney finding isn’t likely to change after Friday when the three-month gun amnesty expires.
While things got busy for police last week as gun owners brought in firearms to be registered, or to simply surrender them to authorities, the response to the amnesty has been lukewarm.
Thirteen rifles including a sawn-off shotgun were presented to the Ngatangiia Community Policing office late last week within a two-hour period. Leader of the police processing team Sergeant Aporo Miria believes up to 200 firearms will have been handed in by the amnesty cut-off date.
There are an estimated 3000 firearms in the Cook Islands.
According to University of Sydney global research in 2002 the Cook Islands reported 500 registered civilian-held firearms, for a possession rate of 2.5 per 100 people.
“Yet officials also noted that a total of 1944 imported firearms had been registered at one time or another in the Cook Islands since 1950, of which an estimated 30 per cent would be unfireable or destroyed.
“This could leave as many as 860 unregistered firearms in circulation, for a total civilian possession rate of 6.6 per 100, or one gun for each 15 people in 2008.”
In 2013 police introduced a firearms safety course and photo identification cards for all licence holders. The licences are valid for two years.
Sergeant Miria says more than 200 have gone through the course and passed. He added many of the rifles being brought in for registration were vintage firearms – “some of the guns have been passed down from grandfathers, they are antiques.”
Handing in a relic that belonged to his father last Friday, Pavai Taramai estimated that the gun had been in the family for more than 50 years.
“He used it to get rid of wandering animals in our plantations and for shooting flying foxes.” When Taramai Sr died in 1985, the gun passed on to his son. Also surrendered on Friday was a single shot sawn-off 12-gauge shotgun.
Sergeant Miria says the most powerful firearms to be handed over have been .303 calibre rifles.
“There were quite a few of them,” according to Miria.
The most common firearms have been 12-gauge shotguns and .22 rifles.
Launched in January by Police minister Teariki Heather, the amnesty was intended to make the country safer. Three weeks into the amnesty, police were expressing disappointment at the lukewarm response by gun owners.
While the response has been better with the cut-off date just days away, police are hoping that gun owners will be responsible and avoid possible prosecution by presenting their firearms for registration. ….PACNEWS [/restrict]