Sentencing of a Northland man who walked into a sporting shop and stole a gun has been delayed as a property is checked to see if it is suitable for home detention.

But Judge Greg Davis was quick to point out to 40-year-old Alastair Litt he was not convinced that the final sentence should not end up any other way than prison.

Litt appeared in the Whangārei District Court this week for sentencing having plead guilty to stealing a .22 LR Chiappa Little Badger single barrel foldable rifle and 100 .22 rifle rounds valued at $400 on June 13 this year. He also admitted being in possession of a firearm without having a firearms licence.

Judge Davis said context was everything and this was theft of firearms "not a chocolate bar or a packet of chips stolen from the dairy".

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"When someone is stealing firearms one has to ask for what purpose?" Judge Davis said.

"The court has to send an appropriate message that anyone pinching firearms is going to jail."

Litt had two previous convictions for firearms offences and was on intensive supervision when he stole the gun from Hunting and Fishing in Rust Ave.

Judge Davis said guns had been previously been described as an "anathema of the community" and in the wrong hands disasters could happen.

"Look no further than Mount Tiger Rd to understand fully what firearms in the wrong hands can actually do."

In that case Quinn Patterson - who did not have a firearms licence and had an arsenal of illegal guns - brutally murdered Wendy and Natanya Campbell and wounded Jeff Pipe during a property inspection at the Mount Tiger Rd home Patterson was renting in July last year.

Judge Davis called for an updated pre sentence report to consider what options were available but said jail was the likely outcome for Litt.

A police summary of facts said Litt went into Hunting and Fishing on Rust Ave about 4.20pm where he spent several minutes looking at the firearms and ammunition.

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Four minutes later, he was in front of the firearms display where the Chiappa rifle was stored. He grabbed the firearm and was able to manoeuvre it past a metal barrier.

When a shop assistant walked by, he leaned it up against a shelf and circled the area a few times. Litt then took ammunition from a table and put it in a bag before hiding the firearm under his clothing and walking out without paying.

Two weeks later police searched Litt's Maungakaramea property where he showed them where the rifle was hidden in scrub near his house. Litt was remanded on bail to November 29 for sentencing.