Armed Sieges and Gun Politics in New Zealand

An armed stand-off in Chaucer Road South, Napier that started yesterday morning continues into today.

There street where it’s happening : Chaucer Road South

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YouTube link: Napier gunman a ‘one-man army’

A routine cannabis bust went horribly wrong when the suspect, Jan Molenaar, shot dead policeman Len Snee, 53 and critically injured 3 other people yesterday in the small tourist town of Napier, famed for its art deco architecture.

Len Snee was the fifth police officer to have been shot dead since the Aramoana massacre of 1990 and one of 29 officers to have died as a result of a criminal act in New Zealand.

Among the wounded are Senior Constable Bruce Miller, dog handler Senior Constable Grant Diver, 50, and a neighbour.

Molenaar is thought to have been a NZ Territorial army solider and is armed with a number of high powered weapons, said to be guns of different calibres, large stocks of ammunition, and possibly explosives. But he doesn’t have a firearms licence. He has been described as a fitness obsessed, self styled Rambo who never fully recovered from the suicide of his brother.

As yet medical services have been unable to retrieve Len Snee’s body, who is lying where he fell on the pavement.

160 people have been evacuated from the vicinity, Napier Central School, Nelson Park School and Nelson Intermediate have been closed as the town goes into lockdown.

Police have draughted in reinforcements and armoured vehicles to assist in bringing the siege to a resolution.

Aramoana Massacre, 13 Dead
New Zealand’s most notorious gun related outrage was the Aramoana Massacre in Nov 1990 when unemployed gun collector David Gray went on the rampage with a scoped semi-automatic rifle in the small coastal hamlet of Aramoana. See also The Raurimu Massacre of 1997

RAURIMU, New Zealand (CNN) — Stunned residents of the New Zealand hamlet of Raurimu on Sunday struggled to cope with a shotgun massacre that left six people dead and five seriously wounded, shattering their peaceful community.

Stephen Anderson, 24, who was arrested stark naked a few hours after Saturday’s slayings, which local residents said began at a family reunion, was charged in court Sunday with the murder of one of the victims, Hendrick Derek Young Van de Wetering.

An unemployed man from Wellington, Anderson showed no emotion as he appeared barefoot and in police overalls in Taumarunui district court, 34 km (21 miles) from Raurimu.

The bearded man with cropped hair was remanded in custody to appear in Hamilton District Court on Wednesday.

A psychiatric report was ordered. No application was made for bail or suppression of his name.

In Raurimu, the horror of the killings had not yet sunk in.

“For this to happen, it’s just devastating,” said Julie Hurley, who was in the small North Island town near the active volcano Mount Ruapehu at the time of the murders. “It’s such a nice, quiet little place.”

Families of the dead huddled in a classroom at the tiny local school, too traumatized to face hordes of camera crews and journalists descending on their home in the wake of the carnage.

String of violence

The Raurimu gunman started his rampage Saturday morning at the Raurimu Lodge, used by skiers frequenting Mount Ruapehu’s ski slopes during the winter season, police said. New Zealand is now in mid-summer.

Bodies were strewn in a 200-meter (yard) radius as the killer blasted his way from the lodge to the main road, police said.

ski.lodge

From Raurimu Lodge, the gunman moved on to a neighboring property, where he shot Van De Wetering, a respected member of the community.

With the help of helicopters and planes, police tracked him through rugged bush outside the small North Island town of Raurimu near volcanic Mount Ruapehu. There they found Stephen Anderson naked and unarmed, Holloway said.

Residents told CNN the suspect’s first victim was his wife. New Zealand Radio quoted local residents as saying that two of the victims were the man’s parents. Local residents said he had a history of psychiatric problems. Police, however, would not confirm those reports.

“There are indications that they are not necessarily all family members,” Inspector Jeff Holloway told reporters at a news conference Sunday morning.

The proprietor of a nearby motel, who declined to be named, said he understood one of the dead was a young woman who had been walking along the roadside trying to hitch a ride.

“One guy was going to pick her up, then he saw the guy with the shotgun and kept going,” the motelier said. “He looked back and saw the woman getting shot to pieces.”

One of the first to raise the alarm was Gordon Stewart. He came across a victim who had been shot in the head but had still managed to flee the scene.

“At first it was thought to be hunters out in the nearby bush,” Stewart said. “But then a car drove up with a man inside pleading for help. He had been shot in the head.”

The victim told Stewart “someone had gone berserk with a shotgun and was shooting at random.”

Phil Walter said he stopped to assist at what he thought was an automobile accident.

“We got out to check it, and the shots were firing,” Walter said. “So we got back into the car and the man by the car told us to go and get to the police.”

Unsure of where the gunman was, people sped away in cars and farm trucks and gathered several kilometers (miles) up the road before police arrived.

The wounded were ferried by helicopters to hospitals in the district. Helicopter pilot Guy Beange said the scene was “like Vietnam,” with police and helicopters everywhere.

“It’s not the sort of thing you expect to happen in a place like this,” one man said. “The locals are all stunned because it’s such a quiet place. People come here just for rest and recreation, to get away from things, and for this sort of thing to happen is an absolute tragedy.”

Gun laws under review

An inquiry into New Zealand’s gun laws is already under way in the wake of the Port Arthur and Dunblane massacres in Australia and Britain last year, but it is not due to report until June.

New Zealand has 11 times as many guns per capita as Britain and 60 percent more than Australia, possibly reflecting a high proportion of people living in the countryside and keeping guns for pest control and game shooting.

Police Minister Jack Elder said he would review the situation.

“We’ve had the problem for a long time, and we have let it get out of control,” he said. “I want to see it (a review) done as quickly as possible like everyone else, but I’d prefer to get it right than rush into something and not get it right.”

Reports after the incident revealed that Grey used an SKS 7.62X39 Semi-automatic and a Norinco AK47 copy, chambered for a .223 cartridge. He also owned 4 .22LR rifles – 2 semi automatics and 2 single shots.

Gray shot his next-door neighbour and the neighbour’s daughter, before opening fire indiscriminately. In total Gray killed 13 people, including local police Sergeant Stewart Guthrie who first responded to the calls of a shooting. The dead included 4 children, two other children were also shot and survived their injuries.

Two years later New Zealand made an amendment to its firearms regulations which was supposed to tighten up on gun control in the country. This latest incident is bound to lead to fresh calls for further controls and for restrictions on the sale, type and number of weapons that can be kept in a domestic situation. It will also reignite calls for police officers to be armed.

230,000 licensed owners, 1.1 million firearms
According to Wikipedia, NZ has an estimated 230,000 licensed firearms owners using approximately 1.1 million firearms, enough for 1 in 4 of the population. There are no figures for the number of weapons illegally owned by unlicensed individuals.

Weapons Available on “TradeMe
Along with kid’s toys, used clothes and automobiles NZ’s online auction site is used to buy and sell weapons. New Zealand is thought to be the only country where weapons are traded in such a way.

Despite David Gray using semi-automatic rifles and an AK47 copy in the Aramoana massacre almost 19 years ago there are similar items still being offered for sale in New Zealand. This is a brief list of some of the weapons currently available for sale on TradeMe

  • 340 listings under the category of “Rifles” including scoped weapons, semi-automatics and an “immaculate Saiga AK47″
  • 246 listings for “Ammunition”
  • 171 listings for “Shotguns”, some of them semi-automatic
  • 654 listings for “hunting knives”, including items such as Tomahawks described as throwing axes
  • 130 listings for “Archery” including Military Style Compact Crossbows.

“Gun Politics in New Zealand” (source Wikipedia)
“Guns are not currently a major political issue, but have been immediately after the Aramoana massacre in 1990, and the Scottish Dunblane and Australian Port Arthur massacres in 1996.

New Zealand’s gun laws are notably more liberal than other countries in the Pacific, focusing mainly on vetting firearm owners, rather than registering firearms or banning certain types of firearms. Firearms legislation is provided for in the Arms Act and its associated regulations, though stricter unofficial police and government policies also apply.

Firearms in New Zealand fall into one of four categories:

Registration is not required for “A Category” firearms, but firearms in any other category require both registration and a “permit to procure” before they are transferred.

Except under supervision of a licence holder, owning or using firearms requires a firearms licence from the police. The licence is normally issued, under the conditions that the applicant has secure storage for firearms, attends a safety lecture and passes a written test. The police will also interview the applicant and two references (one must be a close relative and the other not related) to determine whether the applicant is “fit and proper” to have a firearm. The applicants residence is also visited to check that they have appropriate storage for firearms and ammunition. Having criminal associations or a history of domestic violence almost always lead to a licence being declined.

A standard firearms licence allows the use of “A Category” firearms. To possess firearms of another category they are required to get an endorsement to their licence. There are different endorsements for different classes of firearm but they all require a higher level of storage security, stricter vetting requirements and the applicant must have a ‘special reason’ for wanting the endorsement.”