Trade Me Group has halted the sale of semi-automatic firearms through its online marketplace as public sentiment on private gun ownership turns in the wake of last Friday’s mass shooting in Christchurch. 

The country’s dominant online marketplace will remove all semi-automatic firearms sales and parts associated with those weapons today. Trade Me already blocks the sale of military-style semi-automatics and parts that allow conversions to a military-style gun, pistols or other restricted weapons, but has previously allowed the sale of category ‘A’ firearms. 

The move comes as the government is poised to change the country’s gun laws, with a ban on the sale of semi-automatics seen as a possible outcome, after 50 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch. Cabinet is discussing its response today. 

“We’ve had a lot of contact from Kiwis over the weekend about this issue, and many felt that we should stop the sale of these items in the wake of this attack,” Trade Me chief executive Jon Macdonald said in a statement. “We’ve listened to these sentiments and we’ve put this ban in place while we await clear direction from the government.”

Trade Me’s 2017 transparency report – the latest it’s published – shows of the 1,559 police inquiries it received, 31 related to firearms. Trade Me also pushed back on two occasions that year in relation to firearms information requests out of the 54 times it pushed back on privacy concerns. 

Stats New Zealand doesn’t break out retail firearms sales, but import figures show 23,713 firearms were imported in calendar 2018 at a cost of $15.9 million, including freight. Of those, 10,928 fell in the category of shooting or hunting rifles other than a .22 calibre. 

Over the past 11 years, the number of firearms imported has averaged about 26,400. 

New Zealand imported about $80.8 billion of goods in 2018, up from $8.4 billion a year earlier. Of that, cars and auto parts accounted for about $8.59 billion. 

Trade Me shares increased 0.2 percent to $6.40, below the $6.45 takeover price offered by UK private equity firm Apax Partners. 

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