A Whangārei sports shop selling firearms will be given a written warning from police after a man stole a gun and 100 rounds of ammunition.

Police searched the man's rural property at Maungakaramea, 19km south-west of Whangārei, two weeks after the theft at Hunting and Fishing in Rust Ave and recovered the weapon.

Nearly 23 years ago, Barry Radcliffe went into a sports shop, then called McCoy and Thomas, at the same location on Rust Ave but with different owners and stole a gun.

He had taken his own ammunition and loaded the gun.

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Radcliffe was shot fatally in the chest when he refused to drop the weapon while walking on the main street.

Police have confirmed in the latest theft on June 13, Alastair John Litt, 40, walked into the central city sports shop, Hunting and Fishing, manoeuvred a rifle from the display area and picked up 100 rounds of ammunition off a table.

He hid the rifle and bullets and left without paying.

Litt, of Maungakaramea, appeared in Whangārei District Court on Wednesday and pleaded 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 to being in possession of a firearm without having a firearms licence. Litt is on bail until he is sentenced in mid October.

Police have conducted an inspection of the store and are confident, due to changes made by the staff, the theft of a firearm was a one-off incident. Photo/ Michael Cunningham
Police have conducted an inspection of the store and are confident, due to changes made by the staff, the theft of a firearm was a one-off incident. Photo/ Michael Cunningham

The Little Badger Break Action Rifle is described on online hunting pages as incredible value for a "varmint" hunting rifle chambered in .22LR.

"It's innovative design incorporates an ultra lightweight folding wire frame with ammo holder, front sight, and a threaded barrel for a deadly accurate, reliable, and lightweight rifle. With one simple level pull, the Little Badger folds into the length of its barrel for storage."

Detective Sergeant Dave Wilkinson said police had inspected the store and were confident, due to changes made, it was a one-off incident.

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"A security inspection has taken place and they will not be stocking that firearm in the future. They will be issued with a written warning," Wilkinson said.

Hunting and Fishing owner Carl Watkins said there had been changes and security improved around firearms at the business and additional training had been given to staff.

He did not want to comment any further.

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.

Just four minutes later he was in front of the firearms display where the .22 Chiappa Little Badger brand 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 helped police and showed them where the rifle was hidden in scrub near his house.

The maximum penalty for theft under $500 is three months' jail, and possession of a firearm without a licence is punishable by a maximum jail term of three months and/or a fine of up to $1000.

Police administer the Arms Act and issue licences to business owners and permits authorised by the Arms Act, through Police Arms Officers in each district.

Businesses that buy, sell or hire firearms need a dealer's licence, which is valid for a year, as well as a standard licence.

RUST AVE 1995:
On November 20, 1995, Barry Radcliffe was shot and killed by an armed officer after taking a rifle from a sporting goods store in Rust Ave.

The 37-year-old died in Whangārei Hospital after being shot in the chest outside McCoy and Thomas in Rust Ave when he refused to drop the weapon when confronted by armed police.

He had gone to the shop and asked to see a 30/30 rifle.

He had taken his own ammunition with him and loaded the rifle. Staff had then alerted police and the area was cordoned off.

While police were getting to the scene, Radcliffe walked out the rear of the shop and two shots were heard in the car park.

Radcliffe then slowly walked out on to the main street and was told repeatedly to drop his firearm. He refused and police fired.