New Zealand spent more than $15 million on importing firearms last year.

In total, the country imported 23,713 firearms in the calendar year, with most guns sourced from Turkey, the United States and Italy, figures from Stats NZ reveal.

READ MORE:Gun City owner confirms weapons, ammunition sold to accused gunman

A total 5345 of those firearms were .22 calibre shooting rifles, 7430 were shotguns and around 11,000 were classified as all other guns. The data did not breakdown how many were semi-automatic weapons.

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These figures do not account for air rifle imports, estimated to be around 2000, which largely can be used without a licence and are classified in a separate category, or stun guns or gun parts and accessories.

In addition to the firearms, New Zealand imported $20.9m worth of ammunition last year, compared to $19.4m a year earlier.

In 2017, New Zealand imported a total of 25,309 guns, worth $15.9m.

Guns are big business in New Zealand and are a serious concern, particularly in light of the terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques on Friday which killed 50 people. Five guns were used by alleged gunman, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns.

An estimated 1.2 million guns registered across the country - the equivalent of one gun for every four people.

There are also approximately 12,000 unregistered firearms in the country.

While the number of guns imported last year dropped slightly compared to the year earlier, Kevin Clements, professor of peace and conflict studies at the University of Auckland, said the increase in ammunition imports meant Kiwis were now shooting more.

"That simply means people are shooting more. People are spending more on ammunition in gun clubs and on hunting," Clements said.

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Clements estimates that around 10 per cent of the sum 24,000 guns imported last year were semi-automatic weapons.

"When people are asked what they [semi-automatic weapons] are used for, people just say they are for sport and people to practice with military-style weapons and for shooting rabbits, which is a far-fetched justification," Clements said.

"There's a real need to for us to have a big debate about why we need all of these weapons, and how we control the ones that are most lethal."

New Zealand has a much higher proportion of guns per capita compared to countries such as Australia and Britain, Clements said. "I think we have a slight obsession with guns and the people who own guns are very committed."

Online marketplace Trade Me has been selling firearms on its auction site since the early 2000s. Yesterday the company announced it would ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons ahead of Government's pending announcement on what it plans to do with gun rights.

Trade Me chief executive Jon Macdonald said the company had listened to public sentiment and decided to remove all semi-automatic firearms sales and parts associated with those weapons which could change an 'A' category firearm into a military-style semi-automatic weapons, pistols, or restricted weapons.

"It is clear public sentiment has changed in relation to semi-automatic weapons and we acknowledge that, which is why we're putting this ban in place."