People without gun licences are queuing outside gun shops to buy high powered air-rifles so they can protect themselves during the Covid -19 lockdown. Melanie Reid and Mark Jennings report

Like at alcohol shops, computer shops and supermarkets, lines of people are standing in queues outside gun stores.

Some are gun owners stocking up on ammunition but others said they had never owned a gun and most admitted to never having fired one.

When Newsroom visited the Gun City store in Great South Road, Penrose, for an hour on Tuesday afternoon, the number of people queuing at the entrance was never under six. A Gun City employee was letting people in as customers exited every few minutes. He said it had been like this since the shop opened in the morning.

Regular shooters said they were stocking up on ammunition for hunting or target shooting as they would not be able to get supplies over the next month.

“I’m getting more ammo for hunting deer and pigs down in the King Country,” said Daryll. “With no work I am going to need something to do.”

Most, however, were there for another reason.

“I want to be able to protect my property,” said Daniel, who owned a gun and was queuing to buy ammunition.

“I think people without work could start raiding houses. We don’t know how bad it is going to get. I need to protect myself and my family. I don’t think the police will be able to do it.”

David said he wanted a gun to protect himself at home if lawlessness broke out. “We can’t trust the Police,” he told Newsroom.

Victor also wanted a gun to protect his family because he “was worried about what might happen if people became desperate.”

Asked what sort of gun he wanted he said he didn’t know as he had never fired a gun before. “ I hope the people in the shop can help me.”

Nearly all of the people concerned about their safety were Asian.

When Newsroom asked one woman in the queue if she was buying a gun because she was worried about being discriminated against or targeted due to the virus originating in China, she replied “No, it is just the general situation I’m concerned about.”

Newsroom observed one young couple leaving the shop with four guns and multiple boxes of ammunition. A customer who emerged empty-handed told us the shop had sold out of air rifles. “They’ve stripped the shelves. They’re all gone. I guess it’s because you don’t need a licence to own one.”

An Auckland gun shop manager, who asked not to be named because he was being subjected to abuse for being open, confirmed that in the last week ammunition had been bought “like there is no tomorrow.

“It is way better to have one gun and 10 boxes of ammunition than 10 guns and one box of ammunition”.

“In the shop many people are telling me they are going into the bush to self-isolate, although I’ve heard the Government might be putting a stop to that,“ he said.

“So the real gun owners who have licences are stocking up on ammunition but there are a heck of a lot of Asian people who are asking for high powered air guns to shoot rabbits. Hmm, we weren’t born yesterday.

“The guns they want are clearly for self-protection and they can legally purchase standard spring powered air guns. These would kill a rabbit at 40 metres. Air guns are being sold at a rapid rate, at least 10 this morning.

“Air guns are for shooting rabbits and tin cans but it’s like telling people right now not to stock up on dunny paper. They aren’t listening. People are scared, people are dying around the world. It’s normal to be scared”.

The manager told Newsroom the outlet was experiencing members of the public coming in and abusing staff for selling guns and ammunition.

“This morning we had to usher a woman out the door who was screaming at us that we were murderers and bastards.”

In response to enquiries by Newsroom, police said they were aware of people queuing outside the Gun City store in Penrose. They were monitoring the situation.

“Police attended this morning between 7am and 8am, and provided reassurance advice to both members of public and staff at the store.

“Our priority as police is to keep all New Zealanders safe, and we want to remind people not to panic in this unprecedented time, maintain a safe distance from others, look after one another and stay safe.”

Melanie Reid is Newsroom's lead investigations editor.

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