Federated Farmers supports changes to New Zealand's firearms licensing, in particular the new requirement for a practical, hands-on component of testing alongside the theory.

"To own and use a gun is a responsibility no-one should take lightly," national president Katie Milne says.

"If the changes that come in from July 1 boost people's understanding of the Arms Code and how to stay safe with firearms, that has to be a good thing."

Police have announced that as well as needing to pass a computer-based multi-choice theory test to gain a firearms licence — similar to that used in driver's licence tests — applicants will be required to participate in a practical training session run by firearms instructors from the Mountain Safety Council, and demonstrate their understanding of safe handling of firearms.

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"Federated Farmers does want to see an adequate number of venues for these practical sessions and tests, with plenty of venues in provincial areas," says Katie.

The farmer group is also pleased Police acknowledge that even after the theory test and practical training, there is still a vital role for hunting clubs and experienced firearms users — including farmers — to mentor those with less experience with guns.

"Back in the day, when many more New Zealanders had contact with rural people who use firearms, or contact with other hunters, it was more common for people to be coached through firearms use," says Katie. "They'd go out with those who had experience, and probably start with a pellet gun, graduating to a .22 and bigger.

"These days the firearms culture has changed, and there are probably more people — particularly urban people — who like the idea of going hunting at the weekend.

"They often have little previous experience, and start by buying a large calibre rifle and going into the bush hunting big game such as deer without a hunting 'apprenticeship' with the traditional small game and family guidance.

"Hopefully the practical training will assist with this issue," says Katie.