As the New Zealand Parliament works through the details of its new hardline gun control laws, including the banning of all military-style semi-automatic weapons and forced gun confiscation, one of the country's more notorious gangs remains defiant, saying they will not give up their weapons because "we can't guarantee our own safety."
The leader of New Zealand's notorious Mongrel Mob gang's Waikato branch, Sonny Fauto, told New Zealand-based news outlet Stuff over the weekend that his gang will not comply with the gun ban.
"Will gangs get rid of their weapons? No," Fatu told the outlet. "Because of who we are, we can't guarantee our own safety."
Citing an April 2017 report by the Law and Order Select Committee, Stuff notes that a 2014 police analysis found that nearly half of gang members were charged with firearms offenses. Gang members have admitted that many of those weapons have been obtained illegally. But, Fatu insists, they are necessary for their own protection — and haven't resulted in the kinds of mass violence that occured in Christchurch.
"It's not in our culture to inflict harm on innocent people like what happened in Christchurch," Fatu told Stuff. "The attacks between our organizations are gang-on-gang, they do not involve the non-gang members."
"[H]ow many [mass shootings] have been committed by someone of Pākehā origin?" he asked, referencing white New Zealanders. "Many if we include the terror raids of marae when colonialists stole land and killed women and children, but in more recent times we have Aramoana and now this — the murder of 50 innocent people."
The gang leader went on to decry what he portrayed as a double standard held against the Māori community and other minorities when it comes to criminal behavior.
"When a Māori person commits a crime of extraordinary circumstances the Māori community are asked as a collective to front on it and develop ways to make sure their people don't do it again," said Fatu. "The same is asked of our Muslim, Polynesian, any person of colour. When a white person commits a crime it is seen as an individual act of violence and only tars the individual and maybe their family. There are a number of our Pākehā people who are sick with racism. They need to come together as a collective and address this and heal this. Our brown brothers and sisters shouldn't have to fix this for them – they, we, have endured enough."
The gun control legislation has cleared all hurdles thus far and is expected to go into effect within a couple of weeks. Government officials have already been calling on citizens to voluntarily give up their weapons and are offering a gun buy-back program. Citizens will have until September to turn in any banned guns. Anyone caught possessing a banned weapons after that could face up to five years in prison.
In its coverage of the New Zealand Gang story, Newsweek cites Police Minister Stuart Nash, who called on gang members to hand over their guns. "My advice to the gangs is: 'Hand your weapons back,'" said Nash. "Everyone I have spoken to, be they hunters, farmers et cetera, have said you do not need MSSAs [military-style semiautomatic weapons] or an assault weapon to go hunting or do farm business. These are guns designed to kill people. We don't think we're moving fast in this at all."
Newsweek notes that the Mongrel Mob enjoyed some "favorable headlines" following the Christchurch attack when they offered to protect mosques from future violence.