Monday, February 26, 2024

‘Firearm sales plummeting on register fears’

Neal Wallace
Lobby group says stores are closing and secondhand sales slumping.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sales of new and used firearms are plummeting as concerns with the new Firearms Register evaporates buyer interest.

Trade Me reports that listings of secondhand shotguns and rifles were up 46% last year compared to 2022, but sales are back 17% over the same period.

Council for Licensed Firearm Owners spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack said he has heard of some retailers experiencing a 75% decline in sales with some smaller stores having to close.

He attributes fewer sales to licensed firearm owners not wanting to register a newly bought firearm because they do not trust the arms registry.

Confidence has been eroded by a series of data breaches that revealed the names, addresses and types of privately-owned firearms, Devereux-Mack said.

Others are staying out of the market in the hope a promise from the incoming government to review whether the registry is fulfilling its purpose, will see it abandoned, he said.

Devereux-Mack said information provided by police in response to two Official Information Act  (OIA) requests revealed that only 123, or less than 2%, of the more than 6500 firearms seized by police in the past three years were legally imported or manufactured in NZ.

Devereux-Mack said this means 98% of firearms seized from criminals by police in the past three years would never appear on the Firearms Registry because they were either imported illegally or constructed locally without serial numbers.

A second OIA reveals that the proportion of firearms without serial numbers seized by police has increased since the registry was announced.

Previously the figure was about a third of seized firearms.

By last November 65% did not have serial numbers, which Devereux-Mack said indicates criminals are avoiding the registry.

The existence of this data shows police have long known that a Firearms Registry would be of limited use, and that many registered firearms would have already been recorded on police import permits, he said.

“This is clear-cut evidence that up to 98% of firearms used by criminals will never appear on a register.

“The registry has been a massive deception of the public, to fool them into feeling safer when they are not, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.”

He said licensed firearm owners have been an easy target.

“Licensed firearm owners are the easiest ones when the police need to be seen to be doing something to address rising gun crime.”

Devereux-Mack welcomed moves by the government to repeal and rewrite part of the Arms Act to simplify regulatory, requirements, improve compliance and reduce obligations on clubs and shooting ranges.

He said he hopes changes will go further and make it easier for people to get their firearm’s licence but also obligate them to join a shooting range or club such as the Deerstalkers Association, as is required in Australia.

At present someone can get a licence without ever firing a firearm.

Joining a club or range would provide oversight of licence holders while also enhancing their skills and ethics.

“Potentially if the government was to open up the number of providers, it would educate users and teach them how to safely use firearms,” he said.

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