NZ First leader Winston Peters has met angry gun-owning protesters outside his party's annual convention, but has avoided making any promises.

NZ First had staunchly opposed the tightening of gun laws over previous decades, but this year supported the two tranches of reforms the Government proposed after the March 15 Christchurch mosque shootings.

The first round of reforms, already passed into law, outlawed most military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles.

A bill that would implement the second round is currently before a select committee. It would, among other things, introduce a national gun register and ban visitors from getting a firearms licence.

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The owners say they are law-abiding citizens. Photo / Boris Jancic
The owners say they are law-abiding citizens. Photo / Boris Jancic

About 100 Cantabrians gathered to protest near Latimer Square on Saturday morning, across the road from where New Zealand First's annual conference was starting.

One of the organisers, Sam Kircher, said the protest was intended to show many NZ First supporters were also law-abiding gun users and to convince the party to pull its support for the Government's second round of gun law reforms.

"We want to show NZF that we still exist. Try gain some support from them which we can reciprocate equally," he said.

"They have been great supporters of us as licensed firearm owners in the past and we are hoping they'll continue to do that in the future."

There are about 250,000 firearms licence holders in New Zealand. Police Minister Stuart Nash has estimated about 80 per cent of the gun-owning community supports the Government's reforms.

But Kircher, who said he voted for New Zealand First in 2017, said there were potentially thousands of votes at stake, and many had previously supported New Zealand First.

"If they do show us some support, we will absolutely reciprocate. We all vote for whoever aligns with our values the best."

After opening the party's conference, Peters went across the road to meet the protesters, accompanied by Government Ministers Ron Mark - an avid hunter, and Shane Jones, who was photographed with an AR-15 — the type of assault rifle used in the March 15 attack — while on holiday in Thailand this month.


The frustrated gun owners gathered around Peters, telling him they were "victims" of the legislation, saying they had been "persecuted", and asking whether he would oppose the legislation.

The Deputy Prime Minister would not commit either way, but assured the group he would be listening to submissions during the Select Committee process.

"Given our provincial and rural background, we seriously understand why we're having this debate and we're going to listen as carefully as we can," he said

"I hope then when it's all over, whatever you think, you'll think we behaved reasonably."

National and Act could benefit from any voter backlash from the gun community.

National has suggested amendments to loosen the first tranche of reforms and currently opposes the second, while Act was the only party to oppose both.

"I've spoken to National MPs who have made it clear they were trying to get on side with us," Kircher said.

The protestors stood across the road from the conference. Photo / Boris Jancic
The protestors stood across the road from the conference. Photo / Boris Jancic

"I absolutely do think that we can have an effect [at the 2020 election]."

Peters earlier told reporters he was happy to talk to the protesters, but warned them not to threaten abandoning the party in favour of National or ACT.

"It's a very bad negotiating point to start making threats. That's my advice to them," he said.

The Government has said the reforms will make New Zealand a safer place, a position supported by police and the Police Association, but gun advocates have challenged that.

The Treasury has also challenged the evidence around whether a gun buy-back scheme would avoid future gun-related death or injury.

Kircher said a national gun register would cost a lot of money and not stop criminals from using firearms.