Gun owners are being warned to check security measures after thieves stole 15 weapons and at least 5000 rounds of shotgun ammunition from an Auckland gun collector's home.
Thieves stole the firearms, including semi-automatic weapons, in a break-in at the Bucklands Beach property, between 9am and 5pm yesterday, police say.
Police said it was a reminder to other gun owners that their weapons were a target for gangs and criminals involved in the drug trade.
Assistant Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said that in a small number of cases, such as yesterday's burglary, it was suspected people legally possessing restricted weapons were being targeted.
"We know gang members and other criminals like the prestige and reputation they get from illicit firearms," he said.
Police estimated more than 950 firearms were stolen in New Zealand each year, and in more than half of the cases more than one firearm was taken.
Intelligence collected by police showed a link between the illegal drugs trade and possession of firearms.
"We regularly receive reports of gang members using firearms for stand-over tactics and inter-gang rivalry, often as part of protecting illegal drug syndicates," Burgess said.
Yesterday's burglary comes on the eve of Operation Unification, an Australasian-wide two-week campaign aimed at encouraging the public to report firearms in the possession of unlicensed holders.
Burgess said there was a small sub-culture of people who thought it was fine for them to hold guns without a licence or appropriate security.
"Anyone who possesses firearms is required by law to hold a licence," he said.
"If you know that weapons are in the hands of people without a licence, we encourage you to report it for the safety of all those around you."
People could call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or call their local police station.
Police said it was believed the owner of the stolen firearms in Buckland's Beach had complied with appropriate storage and security measures.
Investigations into the break-in are continuing.
A car number plate was found discarded at the property, along with a crow-bar and trolley jack.
The plate, EAL626, belonged to a car that was cancelled on December 28, 2013.
"Caesar Guerini" (brand)
1 x Forum 12 gauge field gun
1 x Forum 12 gauge sporter impact
1 x Elipse Evo 20 gauge field gun and another 28 gauge barrel
4 x semi automatic shotguns "Browning" (brand)
2 x 12 gauge, 2 shot semi automatic (1966)
1 x Berretta .22 rifle semi automatic (1966)
1 x Browning 20 gauge semi automatic 5 shot shotgun
1 x Winchester Martini Actim .22 collection gun
1 x Remington 30/30 lever action collectors gun
1 x Remington 1187 Camo 12 gauge semi automatic shotgun
1 x Parkerdale Safari 30-06 rifle
Police earlier said the suspects were believed to have travelled in a white truck to the Buckland's Beach house but now said that was not likely to be the case.
Are our classrooms becoming overcrowded?