It’s been a bad year for gun violence in New Zealand. Perhaps that’s what prompted TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan to test the security measures around online sales of guns by purchasing a .22 rifle using faux credentials. So, what responsibility do gun retailers have in minimising the damage?
It’s hard to tell how big the firearms industry in New Zealand is as we don’t have a register system. However, international firearm injury prevention and policy organisation GunPolicy.org has some rough guides used recently by Idealog:
- The number of guns held by civilians in New Zealand is estimated to be between 925,000 and 1,200,000, around 22.6 firearms per 100 people.
- The number of registered guns is around 43,800. Approximately 36,000 of these are privately owned pistols and revolvers, and 7,800 are ‘military-style’ semi-automatic weapons.
- The average number of total deaths from firearms is around 56.9 per year with around 6.7 homicides per year. From 2001 to 2010 the rate of accidental gun deaths is 2.9 per year, with non-fatal injuries for the same period is 72.9 per annually.
In New Zealand, anyone can use a shotgun or rifle for sporting purposes if they’re under the immediate supervision of a license holder, but those who want to own their own need to get a standard firearms licence from the New Zealand Police. Additional endorsements from the police are needed for those wishing to own pistols for target shooting; collect pistols and restricted weapons or stage theatrical performances involving them; or have military-style semi-automatic weapons. The police also administer licences for firearms dealers.
Du Plessis-Allan, who does not have a firearms licence, bought her rifle online from Christchurch gun store Gun City for a news item aired Wednesday TV3’s Story. At the time, those buying guns online needed to provide the seller with a written order countersigned by police proving that they have a current firearms license, but du Plessis-Allan successfully completed her purchase using false documents.
The police yesterday moved to close the loophole which allowed du Plessis-Allan to make her purchase. In a news release, police explained that a set of new rules, which came into force immediately, mean people who’ve bought a gun over the internet need to to physically bring their purchase order into a police station and get a police officer to check their firearms licence before the deal can go through.
The release says an audit of “the country’s largest online/mail order [gun] retailer” – likely to be Gun City – has just been completed and no issues with the robustness of online purchaes was found. The police are now continuing with an audit of all major online arms traders, and are also working with websites like Trade Me to increase scrutiny of online purchases.
Dealers will be contacted by police about the updated process.