Our firearm licensing world's best: Gun maker

By Brendan Manning

A Wairarapa gun dealer says any calls for tighter restrictions around guns and firearm licensing are unnecessary as New Zealand has the best licensing system in the world.

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).

More than 120 firearm licence tests were held at Masterton police station in 2011.

Carterton gun manufacturer Neil Hayes said New Zealand's firearm licensing system was the best in the world as anyone wanting a licence had to do a course of study, pass a test and then be considered a "fit and proper person" by police.

"It's worked extremely well. In fact there's virtually no problem with firearms in New Zealand," Mr Hayes said.

"There's a few criminals that use them, [but] usually the criminals are well known to the police department."

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 MSSAs.

"I do find difficulty in seeing any purpose in having multiple- firing weapons of the military style. I can't see what purpose they serve to us in this country," Sir Thomas Thorp said.

Mr Hayes said the 1997 Thorp report had nothing constructive in it which was why nobody ever took any notice of it.

"He was draconian in the extreme, because even when he did the report we had excellent firearms laws in New Zealand," Mr Hayes said.

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

Police annual reports show 599 firearm licenses 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 Thorp's 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. - APNZ

Gun Stats

- 16,049 firearm licence holders in the Wellington police district (as of February 2012).

- 122 firearm licence tests held at Masterton police station in 2011.


- 3850 B endorsement holders (target pistol shooters).

- 3784 C endorsement holders (possession of pistols and/or restricted weapons as a collector, heirloom, museum curator or theatrical armourer).

- 5516 E endorsement holders (permitted to possess Military Style Semi-Automatics).

- 456 dealers licences.

Source: NZ Police, stats as of June 2012


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