Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Rising number of accidents prompts calls for gun control

Too many people are dying in the bush

A gun control advocate is calling for tighter gun licensing regulations and harsher penalties. Photo / Christine Cornege
A gun control advocate is calling for tighter gun licensing regulations and harsher penalties. Photo / Christine Cornege

A string of hunting accidents is proof New Zealand's firearms laws need to be reviewed, a leading gun control advocate says.

In the past 10 years, 19 people have died and 57 have been injured by firearms.

A 44-year-old duck hunter suffered serious injuries after being shot in the elbow last Saturday. Another man, also 44, has been charged with careless use of a firearm causing injury and released on bail.

Kevin Clements, chairman of Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University, said there were 1.1 million guns in the country and gun laws needed "urgent" review.

Currently, licensed gun-owners can provide firearms to people with no licence or training, so long as they are supervised. There is no limit to the number of firearms a licensed holder can own.

Cyndy McDonald's son Cameron, 29, died after being shot in the head while hunting in South Wairarapa.

The man who fired the fatal shot, Christopher Dummer, was a highly experienced hunter and a former branch president with the New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association.

McDonald said she relived her son's death every time another hunter was shot.

"I thought that would have hit home to a lot of people," she said. "But it doesn't seem to have changed, we're always hearing about more incidents. Friends phone up and say 'have you heard?' And it's just everything over again."

McDonald wants harsher penalties as a deterrent, and also tighter gun licensing regulations.

"We would like it to be like a driver's licence — every five years it has to be renewed because people's circumstances change. Currently there is no review, which is crazy."

Last month, Southland man Adam David Hill, 25, died after being shot in the chest by a member of another hunting party in Southland, and in March, a 22-year-old man was shot by his father near Opotiki.

Mountain Safety Council firearms and hunter safety manager Nicole McKee said: "Too many people are seeing colour, movement and shape and firing. The consequence is losing your mates."

There are 239,000 firearms licences in New Zealand and McKee said the number is rising.

- Herald on Sunday

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