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New Zealand: Minister discusses gun control

ELLEN FANNING: Well, New Zealand tightened up its gun laws after a man killed 12 people with a military-style rifle back in 1990, but their Police Minister, John Luxton, says the country didn't opt for a total ban on these weapons because, he says, it would have been unworkable. Instead, all gun licence holders are being re-assessed through a process of detailed checks made by the police, and the New Zealanders have made it an offence to sell guns or ammunition through the mail.

In this interview with Matt Brown, Police Minister Luxton, detailed the New Zealand experience.

JOHN LUXTON: Government had a lot of support when it moved to increase the control of weapons, particularly the semi-automatic weapons and to change the licensing system to focus very much on screening individuals as to their competence to have firearms.

MATTHEW BROWN: In that screening, what considerations are made?

JOHN LUXTON: What's happening is that they are getting references within the local community; they are checking out the personality of the individual; they are interviewing spouses or partners and other people who know them; basically ensuring that they are fit and proper people to hold a firearms' licence.

MATTHEW BROWN: And you're going through this process for every licence holder?

JOHN LUXTON: Yes. Previously, we had had a lifetime licence, but now it's a 10-year licence, and we've been going through that now. This is the third year of that process.

MATTHEW BROWN: Are farmers exempted from any prohibitions on them owning semi-automatic weapons?

JOHN LUXTON: No, there is no difference between any occupation, one occupation and another.

MATTHEW BROWN: And what about small bore semi-automatics?

JOHN LUXTON: I just say, there is a special licence for those who have military-style semi-automatic weapons or for people who have pistols and hand guns.

MATTHEW BROWN: And what are the conditions of getting that licence?

JOHN LUXTON: Well, again, there's a full screening of the individual, but on top of that they also have to have some secure place in which to keep the weapon and that the weapon's registration is also kept individually, which is not required for other forms of firearm.

MATTHEW BROWN: So farmers can still get access to guns which they say are tools around the farm, essentially?

JOHN LUXTON: Yes, anybody who's a fit and proper person can approach the police and get a licence in our country but, firstly, they've got to prove that they are fit and proper, and that's not just their say so, it's the say so of other people around them.

ELLEN FANNING: New Zealand Police Minister, John Luxton.