FACT CHECK: Ben Shapiro Says New Zealand Has ‘Well Over 200,000 Licensed Gun Owners’

Aryssa Damron | Fact Check Reporter

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro claimed March 21 that there are 1.2 million guns in New Zealand and more than 200,000 licensed gun owners.

Verdict: True

The New Zealand Police estimate that there are roughly 1.2 million guns in the country and nearly 250,000 New Zealanders with a firearms license.

Fact Check:

In light of a terror attack on two mosques that left 50 dead, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that her country would ban certain semi-automatic weapons, with legislation to be drafted in the coming weeks.

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Ardern said in a press conference March 21.

New Zealand will also institute a gun buyback program estimated to cost the government between NZ$100 million and NZ$200 million. Full details have yet to be announced.

“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” Ardern said. “It’s in the national interest, it’s about safety.”

On his show, Shapiro criticized Ardern’s plan and argued that using outlier statistics, like mass shootings, results in ineffective policy decisions. “This is actually pretty terrible policy,” he said. “There are 1.2 million guns in New Zealand.”

New Zealand requires some, but not all, firearm license holders to register the guns they own, so there are no official counts of the number of firearms in New Zealand, only estimates. The New Zealand Police told The Daily Caller that there were around 1.2 million firearms in the country as of 2016, an estimate the police continue to cite.

The department, responding to an information request, provided a similar statistic in November. Civilians held “a maximum of 1.2 million legal firearms” in 2014, it said in a letter posted online. Of these weapons, 65,837 were military-style semi-automatics, pistols and restricted weapons held by individuals with a gun license.

Shapiro also claimed that there are “well over 200,000 licensed gun owners” in New Zealand.

Responding to the same information request, police estimated 248,764 firearms licenses, including standard, visitor and dealer licenses, as of October 2018.

There is some slight double counting in these numbers; in order to obtain a dealer license, one must first possess a standard license. The New Zealand Police told the Caller that there are 485 dealer licenses currently active in the country.

Individuals aged 16 and older can apply for a gun license in New Zealand for the use of certain guns, such as rifles and shotguns. Special additions to a license, known as endorsements, are required to use military-style semi-automatic rifles or shotguns.

The license fee for a new applicant is NZ$126.50 for the standard license and NZ$204 for an endorsement. Police conduct a background check on all applicants and require them to take part in a firearms safety program and police interview.

The New Zealand Police do not have data on “illegal firearms,” or firearms owned by individuals without a license. They do, however, have data on the number of crimes committed in which the offender did not have a firearms license at the time.

From January 2014 to October 2018, there were 15,534 firearms-related offenses where the suspect did not have a current firearms license. License holders committed fewer offenses over the same period, with 1,176 firearms-related offenses.

According to a police report, there were 58 homicides in New Zealand in 2016, 50 murders and 8 instances of manslaughter. The same report said that one in 10 homicides used a firearm.

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Aryssa Damron

Fact Check Reporter

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