Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 August 2019

New Zealand attack: Owner of gun shop used by suspect says he will keep selling assault rifles

David Tipple of Gun City told The National he would only withdraw AR-15 rifles if ‘required to by law’

The owner of a gun shop who sold firearms to alleged terrorist gunman Brenton Tarrant told a press conference on Monday that he would continue to sell AR-15 assault rifles until stopped by the government.

The AR-15 was one of the firearms used in the attacks on two mosques on Friday that left 50 people dead. It has been a weapon of choice for mass killers around the world.

Responding to a question from The National at a press conference, the managing director of Gun City, David Tipple, confirmed that he did not intend to remove the firearms from his stores.

When asked when he would withdraw the assault rifles, Mr Tipple said: “If we are required to by law.”

He initially refused to answer questions about whether guns purchased from his store were used in the attack, but later said he would not know if one of the weapons, a shotgun used at the Linwood Islamic Centre, was purchased from him until the police had completed their investigations.

He has admitted the Christchurch store sold four guns and ammunition to the suspect through a "police-verified online mail order process" but that these had not included semi-automatic weapons.

During the press conference, Mr Tipple was evasive and refused to answer some questions, twice threatening to walk out of the conference.

Mr Tipple said he would not answer questions that related to a debate on gun control as it was not the appropriate time.

In an earlier statement, Mr Tipple said that he and his staff were "dismayed and disgusted" by the shootings.

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The level of gun ownership in New Zealand is high given its population of fewer than five million. Police estimated as of 2016 that there were more than 1.2 million firearms in the hands of civilians in the country. That is a ratio of around one gun to every four people.

Still, the country has very low levels of gun violence, hence the surprise that so many could be killed in cold blood on the streets of a New Zealand city.

Around 859 restricted firearms were seized by New Zealand police between 2008 and 2017, that is a rate of 85 a year, while 12,688 firearms of all types were confiscated by authorities in that period. In terms of gun violence, 28 homicides occurred that involved a perpetrator who owned a gun license in those 10 years.

Updated: March 18, 2019 10:31 AM