Calls for registry after more than 52,000 firearms were imported into NZ last year

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Friday, 8 March 2019, 7:53a.m.
Customs figures, obtained under the Official Information Act, show a total of 52,627 guns were imported last calendar year - about par with the last four years. Photo / Stockxchng

The Police Association is calling for a firearms register to help track how many guns end up in the wrong hands.

Customs figures, obtained under the Official Information Act, show a total of 52,627 guns were imported last calendar year - about par with the last four years.

The figures do not include $2m worth of handguns or other military-style weapons imported last year.

And while the data includes thousands of air rifles and pistols, half were actual guns (26,384).

The figures do not include $2m worth of handguns or other military-style weapons imported last year.

A total of 11,265 were categorised as sporting rifles with another 7021 sporting shotguns.

There were more than 5000 .22 calibre rifles and another 848 under the description, 'other firearms etc which operate by explosive charge'.

Customs records show that 208,777 firearms, worth $113.5m, have been imported since the start of 2015, with 7822 coming into the country already this year.

Police have previously said they believe there are around 1.5 million guns in New Zealand. There are around 250,000 licensed firearms owners.

Association president Chris Cahill told Mike Hosking a register would let us track how many firearms are stolen from law-abiding citizens.

"They just keep pouring through the border and the problem is, as they pour through, we don't know where the majority of them end up."

"I know the majority of them end up in the hands of criminals because our members are finding them," he said.

"But that's the big question, why do we need so many? And if we are going to bring them in shouldn't we know where they end up? And without a registry, we don't know that."

He said they have been asking for a registry for a long time and politicians need to start listening.

"Politicians need to wake up...that there is a problem here."

"How many [incidents] do we need before politicians realise we need to look at guns in New Zealand?"

He said without a registry they don't know who has them and whether they are storing them safely.

"If you've got two or three firearms you're probably not a problem...that's what most firearm owners have and the security is fine, but we don't if someone has got 20 30 or more firearms and whether their security is appropriate."

Cahill said a registry would mean they could track the firearms and minimise damage.

However, Licensed Firearm Owners Council vice-chair Michael Dowling told Kate Hawkesby there's too much emphasis on stolen guns - and we really should be cracking down on smugglers.

"Every one of those firearms, someone has to put in a written application to police. The police then consider the individual and they also consider the firearm and whether the reason for importing it is valid."

"So we are not concerned about the number because there is a robust process around importation."

He said guns are used for a number of different things and the number isn't the issue.

"While we have heard comments, that these end up in criminal hands, it implies they all do, when that's not the case."

"When we look at the stats...it showed that police are removing more firearms from the street than that are stolen each year."

Dowling said more resourcing is needed to crack down on illegal gun smuggling.

"The more resources we can apply to preventing the illegal importation, we think would be a better outcome and use of money."

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