I think I was 7 when I first fired a gun. My father had taken me hunting near a place called Maroa off the Tokoroa-Taupō highway and after a hot, tiring and fruitless day we headed back to the main highway and the car.
A harrier hawk was lying beside the road. It had obviously been hit by a vehicle and was flapping around uselessly with a broken wing. My father handed me his .22 single shot and motioned for me to kill the bird. I stepped up fired and missed. He reloaded the gun and gave it back to me and this time I succeeded in putting the creature out of its misery.
I grew up in a small sawmilling village where most weekends my father and his mates would be off pig or deer hunting in the surrounding pine forests.
Most of the men had a single shot gun of some kind, the exception being an occasional double barrel shotgun. Weekend hunting, especially during spring and summer, was a popular recreation.
Along with other mill families, our family often had a share of the weekend hunt; usually a haunch of wild pork. As long as I can remember our family always possessed a .22 rifle whose sole purpose was for hunting. My mother was as good a shot as my father.
When we moved to town Dad and I would go to the local dump and shoot rats and I learned to shoot practising on tins and bottles.
I began thinking I was pretty hot stuff with the family gun; so much so that when my father was away, me and my mate would sneak the gun and some bullets and go off to the sand dunes to shoot at bottles.
Later in the College Cadets we got to go to the local range to fire heavy ex-Army Lee Enfield rifles that had been modified to take a .22 barrel. Apart from a few hunting trips shooting rabbits and birds that was it until I joined the Territorials and met the heavy SLR 7.67 and the Vietnam era semi-automatic 5.67 calibre M16 Armalite or the Lincoln Toy as it was nicknamed by our soldiers.
Today I have a powerful single shot slug gun which I use for possums, rabbits and rats although my fox terrier Ziggy is a much more lethal killer of these pests than I am. My other weapon is a replica double barrel black powder musket shotgun – a tupara – which has been rendered unworkable by an armourer.
I think my association with firearms is reasonably typical for someone with a largely rural upbringing.
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Hunters and farmers were part of my early life and their use of firearms seems to me to have been sensible and appropriate.
My silly teenage escapades - sneaking Dad's gun were exactly that – silly. At that time there was no law which asked that guns needed to be securely stored when not in use – as is the case now. I should not have been able to access that weapon.
Since the awful events of March 15 this year I have been following the proposed ban on semi-automatic weapons with much interest.
I truly can't see why such weapons are needed. As I learned in the army, semi-automatics have been solely devised to kill lots of people, quickly.
Arguments about needing these rapid-fire weapons to kill animals, is just a bunch of hooey.
If you need a gun that blats off a blaze of bullets to bring down say, a rabbit, then you are either a useless shot or someone who hasn't grown up yet.
I say ban them; allow a reasonable moratorium for people to give them up then make it illegal to possess one; bring into play stricter criteria for gun ownership and make secure storage mandatory with random checks to ensure compliance.
Failure to abide by these rules to be a criminal offence resulting in confiscation and a fine or jail time or both.
I make no apologies for this stance. And don't give me that dopey mantra about "guns not killing people, people kill people". Fact is people with unhindered access to guns kill people.
Buddy Mikaere is an historian, environmentalist, resource consents consultant and Tauranga Moana iwi representative with a wide variety of interests across the Mount Maunganui and Tauranga community. He serves on various Council committees.