Police ramping up the hype to arm themselves

TVNZ reported tonight that the incidents of police confiscating illegal firearms is at record highs. Notice the title of the item is “Significant spike in illegally owned firearms” but the graphic we were shown demonstrates both “legal AND illegal firearms seizures” from 2010/2011 to 2014/2015.

TVNZ Graphic on both legal and illegal firearms seized

How many of the 1504 firearms in 2014/2015 that were seized were illegal please? Surely that’s what the story is about.

We then get the voice over that confiscation of “the number of cut down shotguns has increased four fold.”

So when a media outlet doesn’t mention numbers, but goes to percentage increases it always raises a red flag with me because a four fold increase could be from one confiscation to four confiscations, or it could be from one hundred to four hundred, the devil is in the detail.

Currently the Police get about 1.7 million calls per year to their call center, from that there are 1500 firearms seized each year, of which we don’t know how many are illegal and we don’t know how many firearms are seized per call out, in other words there may be six firearms taken from one incident. But as you can see growing from roughly 1,000 firearm confiscations to 1,500 over five years out of potentially 1.7 million call outs does not support Greg O’Connors statement that “all of a sudden there’s a lot more firearms around out there.”

To their credit TVNZ does suggest that the number of call outs that involve firearms are “less than 0.5% of total recorded crime” although I wager that’s probably a little high of you think that 1,500 firearms confiscations out of 1.7 million calls is only 0.09% but I guess I can give them credit to painting the picture that this is not as dramatic as perhaps Mr. O’Conner is painting it.

Overall I am really concerned about this kind of story, it’s not actually about arming the police to me, it’s about how the media disseminates information and passes it onto us. It seems that TVNZ hasn’t asked the pertinent questions here or, if they have asked them, the Police haven’t given them the answers, either way it’s a lose for the NZ public in being informed.

It’s also completely clear now that Greg O’Connor is hell bent on arming the Police and for my part I am open to that conversation but only when all the information is on the table and the hype and hysteria about ‘four fold increases’ is turned into metrics that are open and obvious for the public of NZ to enable us to make an informed decision.