The worst thing about this escalation of crime is the Government's reaction to it. National Government MP Nicky Wagner, who holds the post of Associate Health Minister, responded by saying the store owners should stop selling cigarettes "if they feel too threatened" by robbers.
Let us consider the implications of what Wagner is saying. She is implying that the store owners are fair game for violent robberies - if they didn't sell cigarettes, they wouldn't be attacked - and that the Government won't protect them. In other words, the Government is willing to let violence against New Zealanders carrying out a perfectly legal commercial activity continue if it serves some other policy objective, i.e. reducing smoking.
This is disgraceful and something I never thought I would hear from a Government minister in New Zealand. Does Nicky Wagner and her Government not understand the potential consequences of this? When the government is unwilling to protect you against violent crime, and in fact legitimises that violent crime, you are left with no choice - to take the law into your own hands. It is an abrogation of the most basic responsibility of government - to protect citizens against violence - and a recipe for anarchy.
Perhaps Nicky Wagner did not intend to say what she said or was misquoted - if so, she needs to make that clear because this is an incredibly dangerous path she has set us upon.
* Convenience stores in New Zealand are commonly called 'dairies' because they traditionally sold dairy products.
[Hat-tip to blogger Lindsay Mitchell for bringing this to my attention.]