Restrictions on powerful airguns backed

Howard Halliday
Howard Halliday
Dunedin gun dealers say it is wrong that high-powered air guns can be owned without a licence, but there should not be restrictions on the sale of all air guns.

Howard Halliday, manager of Centrefire McCarthys Stream and Field Store, said air guns had become increasingly powerful and some were the equivalent of hunting rifles, for which users needed to have a firearms licence, training and be assessed by police.

As an example, the air gun suspected of killing Auckland officer Sergeant Don Wilkinson (46) on Thursday can be bought over the counter by anyone over 18, with no firearms licence needed.

"The lower-powered guns are great for parents to teach their kids how to use firearms, but anything capable of being used for hunting should require a licence."

Police Commissioner Howard Broad said yesterday he would be reviewing the Arms Act and the availability of air rifles following the Auckland shooting.

Sgt Wilkinson is believed to have been killed by a powerful gas-operated rifle, the FX Monsoon, which shoots a pellet similar in size to a conventional .22 calibre rifle round at a slightly lower speed.

The commissioner has policy responsibility for the Arms Act.

Mr Halliday and Scott Kunac, of Allan Millar's Hunting and Fishing, both welcomed the move to review the availability of air guns yesterday, but suggested restrictions be limited to the more high powered weapons as they were in England.

Only people with a firearms licence should be allowed to buy, for example, any .177 calibre air gun with a muzzle velocity of more than 700 feet per second (fps) and any 5.56mm air gun that fired at more than 600fps, Mr Halliday suggested.

Presently, the most powerful weapon in stock in his store was a .177 calibre air rifle with a muzzle velocity of 1350fps that cost $500.

Centrefire McCarthys sold about one high-powered air gun a week in store or over the Internet, mostly to the owners of small blocks for pest eradication.

More than half of all the store's gun sales were air guns, and more than half of those were the higher powered weapons.

Sellers using the main New Zealand online auction site were required to confirm a buyer's age by a letter from police. Neither Dunedin store stocks the 5.56mm FX Monsoon, which has a muzzle velocity of between 940fps and 1000fps, because it cost between $2000 and $3000, but both could - and had - ordered the gun for clients.

Mr Halliday said restricting the sale of air guns would affect sales, but "publicity like [the officer's murder] is no good for our business".


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