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Gun safety conference under fire

Published: 10:09AM Wednesday February 22, 2006 Source: RNZ

New Zealand Police are facing criticism for their involvement in an international conference on gun safety.

The Green Party claims the conference is a guise to allow a large contingent of pro-gun lobbyists to push their views in New Zealand.

MP Keith Locke says at least five of the keynote international speakers have publicly argued against restrictions on the use of firearms and represent firearm manufacturers or pro-gun lobby groups. Locke says the line-up is unusual for what is supposed to be a forum on safety and he is questioning how giving them a platform for their hardline views promotes safety.

The party has described one of the speakers, John Lott, as the world's most  controversial pro-gun researcher. But Lott says he is not sure how he gained such a title. He says that overall gun control usually causes more problems than it helps and he says that as an academic he looks at the net effect.

And convenor Joe Green says the conference will present a broad range of views with a focus on public safety.

He says all the speakers were asked to submit their papers prior to the seminar to ensure the information presented was not just opinion.

Police Minister Annette King says she has no concerns about the conference's content as the speeches and research focus primarily on firearm safety.

And the convenor of the Mountain Safety Council's firearms committee has rubbished claims the conference underway is a forum for pro-gun lobbyists.  Jack McConchie says if it was a pro-gun lobby he and the Mountain Safety Council would not be there.

McConchie says all speakers are academics whose work is peer-reviewed and they cannot risk their reputations by promoting or opposing the gun lobby.  He says they are just presenting the facts about what safety issues have worked or failed in other countries.

There will be 22 presenters at the conference from all over the world, which has been jointly organised by the police, the NZ Mountain Safety Council and the NZ Council of Licensed Firearms Owners.

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