Incidence of Firearms and Firearms
Users in New Zealand
(The main section of a report prepared for the Review by AGB McNair, December 1996, detailed tables and questionnaire omitted.)
Background and Objectives
The issue of firearms control has recently become controversial both within New Zealand and internationally. In response to increasing public concern the New Zealand Government has commissioned a review of firearms control in New Zealand.
A number of approaches have been taken to gather the wide range of information that will be required for the review.
One of these approaches was to conduct a survey of the general population.
The objectives of the survey research were to estimate of the proportion of households in New Zealand where at least one person owns a firearm, to determine the types of firearms that are owned, and estimate the number of people who use firearms.
The data presented in this report was collected by means of participation in the AGB McNair Fast Facts service. This service uses a Computer Aided Telephone Interviewing (CATI) Facility.
Questions were incorporated in the December Omnibus, which is a national survey and interviews 1,000 people aged 15 years and over. Only one person is interviewed per household, with that person being chosen on a next birthday basis, to provide a random sample of individuals.
The questionnaire was formatted on computer prior to interviewing. Interviewers then keyed responses to the questions directly into PCs as they conduct the telephone interview. Routing logic was pre-specified in order to ensure that interviews followed the correct question sequence.
Interviewers worked under full-time supervision and the shift supervisors were equipped with both visual and audio monitoring facilities to ensure the highest possible standard of interviewing. Interviewing took place between Wednesday 27 November Friday 6 December 1996 and was conducted between 5pm and 9pm on weekdays and 10am and 8pm on weekends.
Telephone numbers were selected at random from complete ranges of live numbers supplied by Telecom. These numbers were issued to interviewers on screen, no answers and engaged numbers were automatically programmed for re-issue. Appointments were also made and call backs scheduled for convenient times, thus ensuring interviews with hard-to-find respondents. At least three calls were made to each phone number before substitution.
Quotas on age and sex within four geographical areas of New Zealand were imposed upon the sample, therefore figures in this report are representative of the population.
There is undoubtedly a number of unlicensed firearms in New Zealand; the extent of which is very difficult to measure. It is unlikely that a respondent to a general population survey will reveal household ownership of illegal firearms during the course of the survey. For this reason, the results from this survey are expected to be an understatement of the indicators measured.
In order to reduce the level of understatement, the questions for the survey were designed to be as non-threatening to respondents as possible. The steps taken included asking about behaviour of people in the respondents household as a whole, as opposed to their own behaviour. In addition, the question regarding ownership of firearms was couched in terms of different types of recreational equipment.
Twenty percent of respondents indicated that someone in their household owns a firearm. Incidence is higher than average amongst the following types of households:
higher household incomes ($40,000+)
main income earner is a Farm Owner or Manager or a Labourer/Manual, Agricultural or Domestic worker
Seventeen percent of respondents indicated that someone in their household owns a rifle. Eleven percent stated the same for shotgun ownership, and 2% for pistol ownership.
Nine percent of respondents indicated that there is both a rifle and a shotgun in their household.
The number of people in New Zealand who have used a firearm in the last 12 months is estimated to be approximately half a million (468,187).
Propensity for firearm usage is higher amongst people from the following household types:
main income earner is a Farm Owner/Manager
those living in small towns/rural areas
those in the Southern region
people who live in "young households with no children" or households where the "youngest child is 15+".
household income of $60,000 or more.
Twenty percent of respondents indicated that someone in their household owns a firearm.
Incidence of firearm ownership appears to be higher in households:
in rural areas (37%)
in the South Island (31%)
where the youngest child is 15+ (26%significant at 90% confidence interval)
where the main income earner is a Farm Owner or Man-ager (73%), a Labourer/Manual, Agricultural, Domestic worker (38%) or a technical or skilled worker (27%significant at the 90% confidence interval)
higher household incomes ($40 000+) (24%significant at the 90% confidence interval).
Types of Firearms Owned by Household Members
As demonstrated in the graph below, 17% of respondents indicated that someone in their household owns at least one rifle, for shotguns this figure was 11% and for pistols the figure was 2%.
The questionnaire also included a question on "other" types of firearms which are owned by household members. A listing of the types of firearms mentioned by respondents is included as Appendix A of this report.
Dual ownership of rifles and shotguns
Nine percent of respondents stated that there is at least one rifle and one shotgun in their household.
Of households with at least one rifle, 53% also have at least one shotgun. By comparison, 80% of households with at least one shotgun also have at least one rifle.
Twenty six percent of respondents indicated that someone in their household had used a firearm in the last 12 months.
Two approaches were identified to estimate the proportion or number of people in New Zealand who have used a firearm in the last 12 months. These are outlined below:
multiply the average number of people per household who have used a firearm by the number of "permanent private dwellings" in New Zealand.
divide the average number of people per household who have used a firearm by the average number of people per household.
We estimate that, on average, 0.4 people per household have used a firearm in the last 12 months.
Assuming there are 1,170,468 "permanent private dwellings" in New Zealand (1991 Census), the number of people in New Zealand who use firearms is estimated at approximately half a million (468,187). Given a population base of 3,434,950 (1991 Census), this estimate suggests approximately 14% of the population have used a firearm in the last 12 months.
Using the second approach, with an average household size of 2.8 (1991 Census), a similar proportion is calculated.
The overall average household size from the survey is 3.04, which is higher than the Census average. Using the survey data for the calculation results in a slightly lower estimate of 13%. This estimate is within the margin of error of the 14% estimate.
Using the second calculation and household size information from the survey, we are able to analyse sub-groups propensity to use a firearm.
The following groups have a higher than average propensity for firearm usage:
main income earner is a Farm Owner/Manager (39%)
those living in small towns/rural areas (21%)
those in the Southern region (18%)
people who live in "young households with no children" (23%) or households where the "youngest child is 15+" (18%significant at the 90% confidence interval).
household income of $60 000 or more (17%significant at the 90% confidence interval).