14 Nov 2013

Gun proliferation worries New Caledonia

4:21 pm on 14 November 2013

There is growing concern in New Caledonia over the proliferation of firearms amid suggestions that more than 100,000 rifles are now in circulation.

The French high commissioner, Jean-Jacques Brot, says weapons should no longer be sold as if the territory was a haven of eternal peace.

France says it will tighten the gun law by next month as there are now officially more than 54,000 rifles registered, a figure which insiders say hides the real numbers.

An online petition has been launched to stop the easy sales of hunting weapons, to check on the number of rifles held by individuals and to control the quantity of ammunition being stocked.

There have been several shooting incidents in public as well as eight homicides in the past year, which a leading politician, Philippe Gomes, says has raised New Caledonia's armed crime rate to three times that of France.

A hunter's organisation says alcohol abuse is behind the violence but concedes that with the approach of a possible independence referendum people have stocked up.

Political unrest in the 1980s left dozens of people dead, including both civilians and soldiers.