Police have reacted to a current affairs TV story which exposed how easy it is to buy a gun online without a firearms licence by closing the loophole and bolstering its rules.

Auckland police have launched a criminal investigation into the purchase of a gun online by MediaWorks journalist Heather du Plessis-Allan. She successfully purchased a .22 rifle using false details online.

Police say a review launched in January into the processes around firearms licensing was already looking at tightening up online or mail-order firearms buying rules.

But yesterday, police announced new rules, which immediately come into force.

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Would-be purchasers are now required to physically take their purchase order into a police station and present their firearms licence to be checked by a police arms officer.

"Once police are satisfied, the form will then be passed to the dealer by police following verification. This will negate any need for dealers to cross check details - though police will be continuing to audit dealers on a regular basis to make sure the system is working appropriately."

Gun City's millionaire owner David Tipple said he would go ahead with a private prosecution against du Plessis-Allan if a police investigation into the current affairs sting decided against prosecution.

"I'm ready for the battle. She's going down 100 per cent."

Law expert Professor Chris Gallavin, deputy pro vice chancellor at Massey University's College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said it was "likely" that du Plessis-Allan had committed an offence.

"But there is a broader public policy issue here, over whether we want good investigative journalism in New Zealand exposing things that under ordinary circumstances perhaps wouldn't have been brought to either the police or the public's attention. This is one of those cases where discretion should be exercised by police in not prosecuting."

TV3's Story broadcast about the gun purchase came after co-host du Plessis-Allan told Radio Live the .22 rifle had been bought for $300 using a fake name and fake gun licence.

"It wasn't difficult for me to do this. I didn't have to make fake IDs or anything."

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MediaWorks journalist Duncan Garner, who interviewed du Plessis-Allen, said the rifle had been bought to test the law and there was a strong "public interest" defence.

A spokeswoman for MediaWorks said: "We believe it is in the public interest that this serious loophole in the gun laws is closed. We support this story and the Story journalists completely."

NZME