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Greens call for extension to gun licensing plans

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, July 25 NZPA - A move to require people to be licensed to own high-powered air rifles has been welcomed by the Green Party, but it also says owners should have to register all their firearms.

Police Minister Judith Collins said today changes likely to be implemented through an amendment to the Arms Order 1984 could become law within a few months and would apply to pre-charged pneumatic air guns, but not older-style, spring-loaded airguns, guns powered by CO2 cartridges, BB guns or paintball guns.

The move follows the deaths of undercover police officer Sergeant Don Wilkinson, who was shot and killed with an air rifle in 2008, and Auckland man Keith Kahi, who was shot and killed earlier this month with the same sort of weapon.

Green Party police spokesman Keith Locke said requiring a firearms licence for the possession of high powered airguns was a step forward, but a requirement to register all firearms would be another sensible step to take.

"Then when police turn up to an address they will then have a better idea of what guns might be inside," he said.

Ms Collins told TVNZ's Q&A programme today it was not realistic to expect that the criminals likely to use guns illegally would register them.

New Zealand's gun licensing system worked well, she said. In Australia and Canada, where both the owners and firearms needed to be licensed, such laws had not led to fewer deaths from firearms.

Mr Locke said the argument that some criminals wouldn't register their firearms was spurious. "Do these people also say we should abolish tax laws because some people dodge tax?"

"In any case, several of those taking pot shots at police are mentally disordered people, not hardened criminals, and they may well have registered their guns at an earlier time."

Ms Collins said high-powered air rifles were popular with violent criminals who could own and use them without having to undergo the rigorous background checks required for a firearms licence.

She said the licensing move would not penalise law-abiding people with legitimate uses for airguns, such as hunters, farmers and target shooters.

Police have been working on a range of policy options relating to public safety, including looking at tightening regulations around firearms sales so internet transactions and mail orders would go through an intermediary, such as a licensed dealer or police.

The review also looks at extending access to firearms for police.

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