A 20-year-old with a passion for firearms found himself fixed firmly in the sights of the law today.
Mt Maunganui plumber Zane Alexander Baird pleaded guilty in Tauranga District Court to unlawfully possessing a firearm and breaching the local liquor ban.
He stood to lose his firearm's licence and faced a maximum penalty of either four years in jail or a $5000 fine.
Born and raised on a farm, hunting and shooting were an intrinsic part of Baird's life, Judge Thomas Ingram was told.
About 12.05am on December 5 last year, police saw him in Tauranga's Strand reclamation car park standing outside his Toyota utility drinking a bottle of beer.
Because he was contravening the booze ban, officers went over and spotted a number of shotgun cartridges scattered on the back seat of the vehicle, said prosecuting counsel David Pawson.
A search of the ute located a Mossberg Maverick 88 12 gauge pump-action shotgun and additional barrel behind the rear seat, along with ammunition.
Baird said he used the gun for hunting but, as he did not have sufficient storage at home, he was keeping it in his vehicle.
When asked why he had brought the shotgun into the central business district that evening, he replied: "I realise what I've done was pretty dumb. I just wasn't thinking."
Admitting he was aware of the liquor ban, Baird said he was just having a few drinks with a mate.
Defence lawyer Peter Attwood said Baird had had heavy involvement with firearms legitimately from a young age and been a member of his school's shooting team.
He knew he had been careless, particularly mixing alcohol with firearms, and that the ramifications were huge.
"He knows what the rules are. It is his hobby, his sport, his love," said Mr Attwood.
"He is a good man from a good family holding a good job."
Mr Pawson argued that, with his background, Baird should have known better.
"You do not store weapons of that calibre in cars with ammunition."
If, as the defendant said, he did not have enough room in his gun safe to store the shotgun he should have dismantled it, the prosecutor said.
He suggested Baird surrender his firearms licence voluntarily and undertake an alcohol education course.
"There is nothing to stop him still hunting. All he needs is a good sharp knife and a couple of good dogs."
Although the gun was hidden behind the seat and police did not see it until they searched, the offending was "pretty serious", Judge Ingram said.
"The worst feature about it was that you were out on the town drinking. Drinking and firearms do not go together."
He said it was a case of seriously improper storage. One of the consequences of a conviction would be the loss of Baird's firearms licence - likely for a period of years.
That would be out of all proportion to the crime.
Judge Ingram granted a discharge without conviction and ordered Baird to pay $250 toward the cost of the prosecution.
On the liquor ban breach he fined Baird $150, plus court costs of $130, and warned: "No more of this, Mr Baird. You want to have guns, you have a responsibility as a gun owner."