Gun shop owner vows to prosecute TV3 reporter


TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan claims she bought a gun without a licence.

A gun shop owner is vowing to privately prosecute TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan, claiming she bought a gun without a licence for her current affairs show.

Auckland City Police has announced it has opened a criminal investigation into the purchase of the gun over the internet.

The purchase of a .22 rifle was made by the TV3 reporter for a piece on current affairs show Story, which aired on Wednesday night.

Story co-host Heather du Plessis-Allan said buying a gun was so easy it was like finding money on the ground.

Story co-host Heather du Plessis-Allan said buying a gun was so easy it was like finding money on the ground.

The gun was bought via mail order from Gun City, the country's largest gun seller, allegedly using a form with a fictitious police ID number and signature.

Owner David Tipple, of Christchurch, said the store had broken no laws – but claimed du Plessis-Allan and TV3 could be in trouble. 

If police didn't prosecute the journalists, he would take a private case against them, he said.

He claimed that: "We've done nothing wrong. We have completely and absolutely complied with the law."

The form for the gun purchase had, he claimed, been forged, using a fake name against a fake gun licence number that just happened to be a valid number for a licensed New Zealand gun user.

Tipple said maybe du Plessis-Allan just got lucky with the licence number.

His bigger concern was that the gun form also featured the name, ID number and signature of a fictitious police officer.

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"They will go down for it. This is not a joke."

Tipple sent a copy of the form to blogger Whaleoil.

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In a statement released on Wednesday evening, police said they had launched a criminal investigation "following information that a firearm was purchased illegally online".

The police investigation stemmed from a report "from a woman alleging that false details had been used to fraudulently obtain a firearm via an online dealer", the police statement said.

"For anyone to possess a firearm without having the necessary license is a criminal offence and, if proven in court, could result in a sentence of up to three months' imprisonment or a fine of up to $1000.

"Charges for obtaining by deception, if proven, carries penalties ranging from three months imprisonment up to seven years imprisonment depending on the value of the item obtained."

Tipple said protocols at the shop for online purchases would, however, change as a result of the media coverage.

"Now that they have put on TV a how-to-break-the-law, we will immediately bring in extraordinary checks and measures to make sure this style of crime can't be committed again.

"Now that they've done this I think change is a good idea."

Speaking after Wednesday night's show, De Plessis-Allan said the most important issue that should be discussed was the ease of the purchase of the gun.

"I don't think that anything that anybody has said changes my opinion that this was far too easy.

"We didn't have to go out of our way ... we simply had to get a mail order form and fill it out," she said.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's way too easy. I don't think people should be able to get guns like that."

The TV3 reporter did not want to comment on the order form and how it was filled out. She did not want to draw attention to the exact processes needed to illegally obtain a gun, she said. 

The television story was intended only to highlight the inadequacies of the current licensing system, she said.

Stuff reporter Tony Wall first revealed how easy it is to buy guns online in an expose in 2008.

Du Plessis-Allan confirmed on RadioLive on Wednesday afternoon that TV3 had been contacted by police, who were investigating the television station's involvement.

"It wasn't difficult for me to do this. I didn't have to go and do a great deal of research or get people involved or make fake IDs or anything. We were never asked anything about our gun licence.

"We went into this eyes wide open, we did know that some of what we were doing would likely land us in a spot of bother with the cops. But is was definitely in the public interest."

Inspector Peter Gibson said police took "extremely seriously" any incident of "obtaining or possessing" guns illegally.

For online firearm purchases, a buyer is supposed to provide "a written order countersigned by police proving that they have a current firearms license".

 - Stuff

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