Better enforcement needed: Firearm dealer


While international shooting tragedies re-ignite debate around gun laws, a local gun dealer says legislation here is up to scratch - but stricter enforcement is needed.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show of the 234,000-plus gun licence holders in New Zealand, 5516 are permitted to possess military-style, semi-automatics (MSSAs).

There are nearly 15,000 firearm licence holders in the Eastern police district, which includes Hawke's Bay.

Hawke's Bay Rifle Club secretary Les Marshall said New Zealand's gun laws were sufficient, but only when enforced.

"If you get a gun [related] problem in the courts they don't seem to get the right punishment.

"They don't seem to hand down the maximum sentences ... they seem to be fairly lenient."

Mr Marshall said while lawful gun owners were penalised, unlawful gun owners with stolen weapons continued to flout the law.

Mr Marshall saw no reason to allow MSSAs in New Zealand.

"I don't see any use for them whatsoever in this country."

A former High Court judge who was appointed to review gun control laws in 1996 following two shootings by police and the Aramoana massacre is again questioning the need for civilians to possess military-style weapons.

"I do find difficulty in seeing any purpose in having multiple firing weapons of the military style," Sir Thomas Thorp said.

"I can't see what purpose they serve to us in this country."

American Vice-President Joe Biden is due to release recommendations from his gun violence task force this week in response to calls for tighter gun control laws, specifically around the ownership of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.

It follows the second-deadliest school shooting in US history in December in which 20 children and six staff were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The gunman used two pistols and a Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle, a gun available to Kiwi arms enthusiasts with E category licences.

The most recently available figures from Statistics New Zealand show more than 26,000 firearms were imported in 2011, worth $13.5 million.

Although firearm owners are licensed, there is no way of knowing how many guns they possess because of a decision in 1982 to abandon a system of licensing each gun in favour of licensing gun owners.

In 1996, Police National Headquarters estimated there were 1.2 million firearms nationwide.

Sir Thomas said while New Zealand's gun-related offending was lower than other developed countries, police routinely found blackmarket guns in criminal hands during drug raids.

Police annual reports show 599 firearm licences were revoked in the 2011/12 financial year for gun control breaches; 79 under the Domestic Violence Act.

The number of illegal firearms in circulation is unknown.

However, Sir Thomas' 1997 Review of Firearms Control in New Zealand estimated 100,000 guns were held by unlicensed owners.

His report recommended that all firearms be registered (not just handguns and MSSAs); licences be renewed every three, instead of 10 years; and MSSAs be banned and made subject to a Government buy-back.

To date most of Sir Thomas' recommendations have been ignored by Parliament.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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