Earlier this year, the number of Bay of Plenty gun owners handing in their firearms was looking bleak. Less than 20 per cent of declared firearms had been given up and this number was not looking any better across the country. However, after a spate of successful buy-back events, things are looking up. Reporters Zizi Sparks and Caroline Fleming take a closer look at the success of the scheme in the Bay.
The number of people giving up their guns in the Bay of Plenty is on the rise despite a slow start.
This comes after provisional figures provided by the New Zealand police show 97 people attended the latest Bay of Plenty firearms buyback and amnesty event in Tauranga.
The figures show 161 firearms and 498 parts were handed in at the event.
Previously, just two of the 155 military-style semi-automatic weapons declared for surrender in the Bay of Plenty in a three month period were handed in.
An Official Information Act request revealed that between March 22 and June 19 this year, 4848 firearms were declared for surrender nationwide, with 424 of those from the Bay of Plenty region.
Yet of those, only 684 were handed in nationwide - and just 61 in the Bay of Plenty.
However, the latest event in Tauranga proved that these figures were on the rise.
Senior Sergeant Chris Summerville said more than 105 people had come through the doors on Friday morning alone to hand in firearms.
He said police were expecting large numbers throughout this weekend.
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A Tauranga man, who had been in to hand in some firearm parts, said the lines were extremely long inside.
When asked why he came down today, he said there were so many firearms out there that were not necessary.
A lot of "older fellas" had old firearms locked in their cupboards that they no longer needed and it was the right thing to bring them down, he said.
Bay of Plenty police operations support manager Ed Van Den Broek said he encouraged people to come down to the events and not leave the hand in until the "last minute".
The collected weapons will be shredded in Te Puke, which has one of just two of the country's plants being used to destroy surrendered weapons.
A police spokeswoman said the collection events held in the Bay of Plenty region since July 20 had all gone well.
"Police have been really happy with how engaged firearms owners have been and how well the process has gone. These collection events are scheduled in the region until 29 September at this stage."
She said the police would be reviewing how the collection events were going to make sure it was the best approach.
Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty provincial president Darryl Jensen said many farmers were relatively happy with the buy-back scheme and he had not heard of too much of a pushback.
He said a large number of farmers were handing them in as they no longer needed or wanted them, however, it was a different story for some gun enthusiasts who may have been reluctant.
Illegal weapons had mainly been used for pest control, he said
The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Act came into effect on June 20 and the new regulations allow for the buy-back of newly prohibited firearms and parts from owners within a six month amnesty period (by 20 December 2019).
In order to receive compensation for prohibited firearms gun owners must have a valid firearms licence.
The most common firearm declared for surrender in the Bay of Plenty was a rifle with 182 declared. It was also the most surrendered firearm with 32 surrendered.
Regionally, eight rifles and eight airguns were surrendered, as well as six pistols, five prohibited rifles, and two military-style semi-automatics (MSSA).
Zero automatic rifles and prohibited shotguns were surrendered despite two of each declared.
In the information Arms Act Service Delivery Group acting superintendent Mike McIlraith wrote firearms licence holders would not be required to register their firearms with the police unless they were held under B (pistol), E (MSSA, now revoked) or C (collector) endorsements.
"As at June 19 there are 13,932 MSSAs held by active licence holders. However, not all of these will be required to be surrendered if the licence holders apply for and are granted the new prohibited firearms endorsements."
Declare to surrender:
Gun owners who register to declare their intention to surrender their firearms.
Under the buy-back scheme, only firearms obtained legally by someone with a valid firearms licence will be compensated.
Other weapons can be surrendered as part of the amnesty.
The amnesty period includes the ability for firearms holders to anonymously hand-in any firearm/s that will be destroyed and are not eligible for buy-back.
Amnesty allows time for gun owners to handover prohibited firearms even if you no longer hold a valid firearms licence. You may also hand in non-prohibited firearms.
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