Citation(s) from the literature library

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford. 2003 ‘Stockpiles and Trafficking in the Pacific.’ Small Arms in the Pacific; Occasional Paper No. 8, p. 19. Geneva: Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. 31 March

Relevant contents


Claims of systematic smuggling of illicit firearms into New Zealand surface from time to time, but have not been substantiated. In 1997, stories circulated of handguns being smuggled into ports by East European seamen and sold to gang members and others for NZD 1,000 to NZD 1,500 (USD 400-600). Police and customs confirmed they had heard such stories, but that they had not seen any of the firearms, and subsequently the rumours died off (Drent, 1997; Van Beynen, 1997). In the past decade, New Zealand police and customs have discovered only a few dozen smuggled firearms, all of them one-off imports or in very small numbers, trafficked by opportunistic individuals.

The infrequent discovery of smuggled guns tends to confirm that the majority of illegal firearms in circulation were at one stage legal imports. A 1997 survey of 51 New Zealand prison inmates convicted for offences involving firearms indicated that while some licensed gun owners did lend or sell their guns to criminals, the bulk of firearms available on the black market had been stolen from legitimate owners (Newbold, 1999, cited in Chatvick, 1999, p. 22). A study the following year found that 60 per cent of firearms were stolen from an urban dwelling, with rifles (54 per cent), shotguns (34 per cent), and handguns (five per cent) the most common types stolen in New Zealand. It also found that 52 per cent of incidents of gun theft involved firearms that had not been securely stored by their owners (Alpers & Walters, 1998).

[New Zealand's most comprehensive official inquiry into firearm regulation, conducted by Justice Sir Thomas] Thorp concluded that '[b]oth Customs and the Police believe that illegal [firearm] imports into New Zealand have at least until recently been at low volume, and that large-scale imports would have become apparent were they occurring' (Thorp, 1997, pp. 25-6).

An officer in charge of the New Zealand Police Firearms Licensing Task Force once wrote: 'I have no doubt that in the overwhelming majority of cases, those firearms [used in crime] came into this country lawfully, and their original New Zealand owners were the holders of firearms licences or permits'. (19)


(19) Personal correspondence with Insp. Phil Gubb, Coordinator, NZ Police Firearms Licensing Task Force, Wellington, 4 Feb. 1994.

Drent, Rob. 1997. 'Steady Flow of Handguns Coming in from Europe.' Sunday Star Times (Auckland). 25 May.

Van Beynen, Martin. 1997. 'Seamen Bringing Guns through Port.' The Press (Christchurch). 28 May.

Chatvick, Andre. 1999. A Report on Firearm Registration Issues.Wellington: Office of the Commissioner, New Zealand Police. July. [Source cited: Newbold, Greg. 1998. 'Prisoners Reveal Gun Opinions'. The Press, 28 October.]

Alpers, Philip and Reece Walters. 1998, 'Firearms Theft in New Zealand: Lessons for Crime and Injury Prevention.' The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 85-95.

Thorp, Sir Thomas. 1997. Review of Firearms Control in New Zealand: Summary and Conclusions. Wellington: Government Printer.

ID: Q3007

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