19 Jul 2019

Ninety people hand in guns at first southern gun buyback

7:02 pm on 19 July 2019

About 90 people have handed in firearms at the first buyback in the Southern district - an area where 10 percent of the population are firearms owners.

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Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

The event - which was held in Mosgiel today, only 20 minutes' drive from the home of alleged 15 March gunman - was one of five collection events held around the country today .

Other collection events took place in Ohope, Palmerston North, Fox Glacier and Amberley. Overall, 241 firearms owners were processed today, handing in a total of 375 prohibited firearms and 883 parts and accessories, with $687,620 paid out in compensation.

In Otago, a steady stream of firearms owners from around the southern district - which comprises Otago and Southland and is home to more than 30,000 licensed firearms owners - made their way to the Taieri Rugby Club to hand over their guns.

Some, like Owen Gibbs, a firearms licence holder of more than 30 years, said the law changes were long overdue.

"It's a privilege in this country, not a right, as some would think."

Mr Gibbs handed over an SLR - a firearm previously used by the New Zealand Military.

He backed the government's decision to ban the firearms after the Christchurch mosque shootings.

"I think they are correct. I come from Aramoana originally and I'm right behind it. It should've been done after Aramoana."

Mr Gibbs was referencing the massacre in the sleepy seaside village outside Dunedin, where David Gray killed 13 people in November 1990, before being gunned down police.

Mr Gibbs, a hunter himself, thought semi-automatic weapons had a lot of utility but that did not outweigh the danger they posed "particularly in the wrong hands".

He said the process was well organised and those concerned about going to buyback events should not be.

He was not the only one impressed with how the event ran.

Former police ministers Michael Woodhouse and Anne Tolley popped in to see how it was going.

Mr Woodhouse, himself a licensed firearms owner, said he was "very impressed" with the process.

Police opened the doors early to allow those who had queued before 10am to get things underway.

Mixed response to first southern buyback

But not everyone was pleased to be taking part.

Kaitangata hunter Douglas Tiedemann said he begrudgingly handed over his AK47 and SKS.

"I've come along because the law's changed and I'm not allowed to have those guns which I'm not happy about. Not at all.

"I'm not going to become a criminal. I'm not happy about them taking my pig hunting guns and that's all those guns were for."

He said the firearms kept him safe when hunting larger boars.

"It's like a dictatorship. This government doesn't seem to care about due process.

"I think everyone should be allowed a gun licence unless they have some sort of violent history. I don't think that we should all be punished for the actions of one man who, in my mind, wasn't properly vetted."

But Southern district commander Inspector Paul Basham said those sentiments were not on display inside the event.

"It's important that we acknowledge that these people have come along looking to do the right thing, even though many of them have quite a sentimental attachment to what is now a prohibited weapon."

In addition to those taking part in the buyback, six firearms were handed over as part of the amnesty - two shotguns, two .22-calibre rifles, a handgun and a slug gun.

Dunedin city will host two more buyback events over the weekend.

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