Time is up on illegal firearms.

The gun buy-back is finished and from today police will prosecute anyone with a prohibited firearm.

Official figures are due to be released this afternoon, but it is thought upward of 56,000 now-illegal guns have been handed in through the buy-back scheme.

Another 190,000 parts have also been surrendered.

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The six-month amnesty and buy-back scheme was put in place after gun law reforms - supported by all parties but Act - banned most military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) firearms in the aftermath of the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch.

Chris Metcalfe brings his rifle to the final West Auckland firearms buy-back point at Trusts Arena, Henderson. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Chris Metcalfe brings his rifle to the final West Auckland firearms buy-back point at Trusts Arena, Henderson. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The Weekend Herald attended Auckland's last collection point at Henderson yesterday, where people were queuing to hand in their illegal weapons.

Chris Metcalfe was there with a rifle he bought himself when he was 15.

He was reluctant to part with it - but happy to abide by the new law.

"I didn't realise that it was a rifle that needed handing in at first, my son is a police officer and he rang me yesterday and told me to do it," Metcalfe said.

"It's got sentimental value, but it's only metal and I've got to do the right thing."

After speaking with police, Metcalfe decided to get his rifle modified to make it legal so he could keep it.

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It is now registered and he has a certificate to say it can be modified and kept.

Now all he needs to do is take it to an approved modifier and get the job done.

"I couldn't let it go," he said.

"It's a happy day all round."

Others at the event were more than happy to take the money offered by police.

Police Minister Stuart Nash inspecting a military-style semi-automatic weapon after it was rendered in-operable at a collection event in July. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police Minister Stuart Nash inspecting a military-style semi-automatic weapon after it was rendered in-operable at a collection event in July. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Police Minister Stuart Nash said there had been a last-minute surge in the past fortnight as people had come forward to "do the right thing".

"More than 56,346 prohibited and unlawful firearms have so far been removed from circulation, through the buy-back and amnesty, as well as through modifications by approved gunsmiths at Government expense," he said last night.

"However, police have consistently warned the problem is we just don't know exactly how many guns are out in the community. This is why we need a register, to enable police to better track firearms."

The Weekend Herald saw about 100 guns handed in yesterday, dismantled and sent to "the bulldozer" - a machine that bends them so they are unusable.

By cut-off time last night, there had been more than 670 collection events across New Zealand.

The busiest collection points were in the areas with the most firearms licence holders.

Police were also doing organised pick-ups for bulk lots of guns and were also working with retailers and dealers to collect their now-illegal stock.

Payouts have reached up to $90,000 to some people. Police Minister Stuart Nash and Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement will announce the final figures and stats today.

A returned gun is rendered useless at Henderson. Photo / Jason Oxenham
A returned gun is rendered useless at Henderson. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Nash said about 31,650 people participated in the buy-back and "deserve credit and acknowledgement".

"Their response has been excellent and reinforces what we said from the beginning: the vast majority of firearms owners are law-abiding people," Nash said.

"They have so far been paid almost $100 million in compensation."

Alongside the guns, a huge number of prohibited parts were handed in, such as high-capacity magazines and pistol grips, which can modify existing firearms.

"Almost 188,000 prohibited parts are no longer in the community," Nash said.

"Another 1800 firearms have been seized from gangs and other offenders since March," he confirmed.

"From tomorrow, gun owners will not be paid for their prohibited firearms.

"The buy-back will be over.

"The special 'no questions asked' amnesty also ends tonight.

"Those in breach of the law face risk of prosecution."

While the scheme has ended, voluntary surrenders - in place for decades - will continue.

Under this framework, police have discretion on a case-by-case basis over whether to prosecute.