A restriction on airguns similar to the one which killed undercover policeman Don Wilkinson may not have saved the officer, police said on Friday.

Legislation which has been before Parliament for three years would have meant the type of airgun used to kill Wilkinson in Mangere, South Auckland, on Thursday could only be sold to people with a firearms licence.

But Superintendent Ted Cox of Counties Manukau police doubted the speedier passage of the legislation would have made much difference.

“Some laws are good for honest people, but the criminal element don’t always observe those and no matter what laws we have in place, they would generally find a way to obtain firearms,” he said.

“The laws of course act as a restriction I guess to reduce the target audience, shall we say, ensuring better security so that fine upstanding people can access firearms.

“But there will still be burglaries and other ways that at some stage the criminal element will get hold of the firearms.”

Law and order select committee chairman Ron Mark took a similar view.

“What everybody knows is that criminals don’t follow any arms laws. It wouldn’t matter if you made it illegal to own any firearms at all in this country,” he told Radio New Zealand on Friday.

Mark said there had been tighter restrictions on firearms in Britain and Australia, “and the only thing that has happened is that more criminals have got more guns and used them more often”.

“It’s a silly deduction to come to that the Arms Amendment Bill (No 3) would have stopped that shooting.”

Mark said the airgun part of the bill was a tiny proportion of the bill, largely about ratifying a United Nations protocol on the illicit trade of small arms and ammunition.

He said National, ACT and NZ First had expressed concerns about the level of compliance, costs and bureaucracy the bill would impose on people.

However, he said the airgun element was among non-controversial parts of the bill which could possibly have been better dealt with by being made part of separate legislation.