Gun licence applications on rise

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More people are applying for firearms licences in Mid and South Canterbury, with substantial growth in numbers over the past two years.
More than 140 people across Canterbury were in the process of obtaining a firearms licence as at July 30.
That figure was up 10%-15% compared with two years ago, police firearms officer John Wainwright, of Timaru, said.
He had noticed the increase, which he thought was possibly because of growth in the dairy industry, where firearms were used for stock and pest management, as well as in recreational hunting and school trapshooting teams.
‘‘It is busier. There are more and more people applying for firearms licences.’’
People who had applied for a firearms licence through the Timaru Police Station over recent times ranged in age, but were predominantly aged 16-25, and included both males and females, he said.
As at last week there were 241,977 people living in New Zealand who had a firearms licence. Of those, 35,663 were in Canterbury, with many more waiting to go through theapplication process.
Gun City Timaru owner Wayne Golightly said the volume of game had increased over the years, which made hunting more attractive.
‘‘When I was growing up there were no fallow deer running around the hills . . . [Now] the hills are full of them.’’
There were also more goats and pigs than when he was growing up.
‘‘I would say that’s the leading trend . . .It’s to do with availability of accessible game.’’
Mr Wainwright said the New Zealand trapshooting team’s success at the Rio Olympics was not likely to have spurred a rise in the number of firearms licence applications yet, but it could have an effect soon.
Some of the district’s high schools have offered trapshooting in their curriculum for many years, including Timaru Boys’ High School (TBHS).
TBHS director of boarding Ross Smith said gun safety was a major concern and the boys were all police checked and vetted. About 12 boys were involved in the school’s trapshooting team, but interest in the sport had not increased over recent years, he said.
‘‘It’s stayed the same [with the] same number of boys asking me to be a referee for them [when applying for a firearms licence].’’
But not all of them would necessarily get his backing.
‘‘I don’t hesitate to deny someone that privilege if I don’t think it’s suitable,’’ he said.
Federated Farmers Mid Canterbury dairy chairman Nathan Currie said while there could possibly be farmers applying for their firearms licence, it was probably not a major reason for the growth in applications.
‘‘My gut feeling would be more of the younger guys wanting to go hunting,’’ he said.