Applications for firearm
licenses in Canterbury have soared in the past five years,
and are expected to rise even further.
According to figures obtained by The Star, there are now
33,500 firearm licence holders in Canterbury, 16 per cent of
the national total.
Since 2009, the number of new firearms applications filed in
Canterbury has risen by 31 per cent.
Final figures have not yet been determined, but so far police
say that in 2013 there were 1350 first-time applications
filed for firearm licenses - up from 1220 in 2012.
They expect the 2013 number to increase when numbers are
Of those applications, Canterbury police estimated that 99
per cent were accepted.
Police predict that could rise to 1650 applications per year
Gun City owner David Tipple said there was a simple
explanation for a boom in business.
"It's because there's more game to hunt," he said.
"Right across Canterbury, where there's a habitat, there's
been an increase in deer and game and people want to pick up
a gun and hunt."
Mr Tipple said pest-control was also a reason for more guns
He said semi-automatic rifles were customers' gun of choice.
"They're the biggest seller - the .22 long rifles. Most
people are interested in the military-style semi-automatics."
Director of the University of Otago's NZ Centre for Peace and
Conflict Studies Kevin Clements found the numbers
"That's deeply worrying because those guns are the same kind
that Jan Molenaar used in 2009," he said.
"You don't need to use a semi-automatic rifle in hunting."
Prof Clements said semi-automatic weapons should not be
available to the general public.
"Of course some people use them for recreational reasons, but
semi-automatic guns have also become the criminal weapon of
Said Mr Tipple: "Semi-automatics are necessary in hunting."
"If you're only going to get a fleeting glimpse at an animal
on the run, you're going to want more than one shot."
"Plus, there's no recoil."
A Canterbury police spokesman said they did not have a view
on the number of semi-automatic weapons being sold.
"All firearms owners are required to comply with the
provisions of firearms legislation and licensing, regardless
of the type of firearm."
The police firearms office would not provide information on
how many guns were stolen in 2013.
- By Max Towle of the