Hundreds of firearms have been seized by Northland police during search warrants but police say they have no idea how many illegal firearms are in the community.

In the wake of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, Prime Minister Ardern announced new gun laws which passed through Parliament this month.

Police also announced a six-month amnesty for banned firearms.

However police admit they have no idea how many semi-automatics are currently in New Zealand, and it could be well into the tens of thousands.

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An amnesty until the end of September, which the Government can extend, means that people with prohibited firearms will not be prosecuted if they are found with their firearms or surrender them to police.

Police statistics obtained by the Northern Advocate under the Official Information Act show an increase in the number of firearms licence applications and the number of firearms being seized by police in Northland.

Over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017 applications for firearms licences in Northland increased from 735 to 2243. Applications peaked in 2016 when 2359 licences were applied for. Standard licences expire after 10 years.

Police said individuals could apply for more than one type of licence and the figures related to standard, dealer and visitor licences and included first-time applications.

Over the 10-year period there were 757 guns seized in Northland which were part of the national total of 12,668 firearms police discovered and seized.

Gun licences are issued at the discretion of the police in New Zealand provided the police consider the person to be of good standing and without criminal, psychiatric or drug issues as well as meeting other conditions such as having suitable storage facilities.

Double-murder Quinn Patterson killed Wendy Campbell and and her daughter Natanya at a Mount Tiger Rd property in 2017 when they went there to carry out a property inspection. Contractor Jeff Pipe was also shot and injured but managed to drive away.

Patterson was denied a firearm licence in 2016 on the grounds that he was not a "fit and proper person" but that didn't stop him gathering up a collection of military-style weapons he called his "project".

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He used his Trademe account to buy shotguns, .22 calibre rifles, and AK47 weapons.

Patterson died in house when it caught on fire after he executed the mother and daughter.

Fifteen guns were recovered by police at the Mount Tiger Rd property, and 11 from Patterson's home.

Following the Northland shootings Police Association president Chris Cahill said it was an opportune time for politicians to take another look at the recommendations from the Law and Order Select Committee Inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms in New Zealand.

The association said that at the time the existing system fell short as it did not ensure that all people purchasing firearms were licensed and it did not guarantee the firearms purchased ended up in the hands of the person whose licence was identified in the online purchase.

Northland police were unable to comment on the statistics or on the new gun laws.

However, Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said the amnesty provisions protected licence holders with good intent.

"Those people who threaten or actually harm others with firearms can expect police to act swiftly in accordance with existing firearms legislation," he said.

Police are still working through the details around applying exemptions, the buyback scheme, and how to go about large-scale collection.

Clement urged firearms owners to register prohibited firearms with police through the website or by ringing 0800 311 311.

Recently a 36-year-old Whangārei man was charged with firearms offences including unlawful possession of an AK47 and having a homemade bomb.

The items were uncovered in a two-day police search of an Otaika Rd house.

Daniel Paul Van Houten, 36, appeared in the Whangārei District Court charged with unlawful possession of a .223 AK47, unlawful possession of a semi-automatic 308, unlawful possession of a pistol Comet Flare gun, unlawful possession of 308 ammunition and unlawful possession of .223 ammunition.

He also faces a charge of unlawful possession of an explosive device, namely an improvised explosive device.


Changing firearms laws amend the Arms Act by:
* Banning most semi-automatic firearms and some pump-action shotguns; and also certain large-capacity magazines. There are limited exemptions.
* Placing controls around who may possess parts of prohibited firearms.

There will no longer be a category of firearm known as a military style semi-automatic firearm (or MSSA) and the old "E" endorsement will be obsolete.
The newly banned items will be called prohibited firearms, prohibited magazines, and prohibited parts. New offences involving prohibited items carry tougher penalties.

Transitional provisions allow for an amnesty until six months after the buyback is announced so that those in possession of prohibited items have time to notify police and can hand over their firearm/s to police at a later stage when advised of that process.

Prohibited firearms are:
* All semi-automatic firearms (including semi-automatic shotguns), but:
* excluding rimfire rifles .22 calibre or less as long as they have a magazine (whether detachable or not ) that holds 10 rounds or less; and
* excluding semi-automatic shotguns that have a non-detachable, tubular magazine that holds five rounds or less.
Pump action shotguns that:
* Are capable of being used with a detachable magazine; or
* Have a non-detachable tubular magazine capable of holding more than five cartridges.
Only a person who meets one of the exemption categories and who has applied for and obtained a new endorsement and permit to possess may lawfully possess a prohibited firearm.

Prohibited magazines are:
* Shotgun magazines (whether detachable or not) capable of holding more than five rounds
* Magazines for other firearms (excluding pistols) that are:
* Detachable magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds and that are capable of holding 0.22 calibre or lower rimfire cartridges
* Detachable magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds and that are capable of being used with a semi-automatic or fully automatic firearm
* Other magazines, detachable or not, that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds.
Only a person who meets one of the exemption categories and who has applied for and obtained a new endorsement and permit to possess may lawfully possess a prohibited magazine.

Prohibited parts are:
* Parts of prohibited firearms; and
* Components that can be used to make a firearm fire with (or near to) semi-automatic or automatic action.
Only a person who has an endorsement permitting them to possess a prohibited firearm may lawfully possess a prohibited part.