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 :


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.

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.

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.”