Gun owners angry World War I rifles destroyed in buyback scheme

There's outrage from gun owners over the Government's destruction of historically significant guns. 

The Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO) says relics from the world wars weren't exempt during the amnesty buyback scheme. 

The official buyback - put in place in response to the Christchurch terror attack in March - ended on Friday, with 33,000 people handing over 56,250 firearms and 194,245 parts. Police paid out about $102 million in return. 

Video released by COLFO shows owners and collectors devastated at the forced loss of antique firearms.

Waikato-based enthusiast Andrew Barker says they're a part of our past.

"If we do show them to people, they can physically hold them, touch them, the resonance is far greater than looking at them as a picture in a book."

Kath Arnold, also from Waikato, says it's a real shame.

"When we took ours in, there were New Zealand firearms that had been used by our soldiers in the First and Second World War. They all had stories to tell."

Kath Arnold.
Kath Arnold. Photo credit: COLFO

But Arnold does say frontline police who took her historic pieces were empathetic. 

COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee says it's not how the year should have ended.

"There's a lot of very upset people out there - those that feel like they have been blamed and made accountable for the acts of a foreign terrorist."

McKee says collectors are heartbroken.

"Bits of history got bent this year, and because of that we will be losing it. We can't bring it back. That is very sad for quite a number of historians."

The police said on Saturday 4277 firearms that would otherwise have been eligible for destruction were allowed to stay in their owners' hands, as they were "professional pest controllers, bona fide collectors, gun dealers, museums, or others who notified their intention to hand in over the past few days".

COLFO said most applications were refused.

Police say it's unclear how many illegal firearms are still out there. 

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement says the law will come down hard on anyone still with banned weapons.

"The reality is if people defiantly are going to ignore the law, then I'm going to struggle to find a way in which we wouldn't be prosecuting."

Andrew Barker.
Andrew Barker. Photo credit: COLFO

Police Minister Stuart Nash warns those caught with illegal weapons now face stiff penalties, including loss of their licence and up to five years behind bars. 

"You are now a criminal and you face up to five years in jail if police find you in possession of one of these weapons."

The Government says around 1800 guns have also been seized from gangs and criminals in recent months.

"If anyone has concerns about someone with a banned firearm, they can alert police by calling ten-five (105) or anonymously through Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111," Nash said.