Kiwi farmer says he needed to surrender his semi-automatic rifle ‘as a principle’ after Christchurch terror attack

A Wairarapa farmer says he could no longer justify owning a semi-automatic rifle in the wake of the Christchurch attack, prompting him to hand over his gun to police.

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John Hart said he couldn’t tolerate the risk posed by his weapon, despite it being kept locked up. Source: 1 NEWS

Semi-automatic weapons are able to quickly fire multiple shots without stopping to re-chamber a bullet, and were used by the gunman in Christchurch to kill or injure 90 people.

Police have said anyone who wants to voluntarily surrender their semi-automatic rifle is welcome to do so, but have urged gun owners to notify police first and to bring their weapons to the station inside a case.

The suggestion comes amid urgent discussions in Parliament around banning the weapons altogether.

Farmer and licensed firearm owner John Hart yesterday tweeted about his decision, writing "until today I was one of the New Zealanders who owned a semi-automatic rifle ... on the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse.

"We don't need these in our country ... we have to make sure it's #NeverAgain."

Speaking today to 1 NEWS, Mr Hart said it was "a pretty easy decision" to hand over the weapon.

"My particular firearm - we have security and I have good storage - I wasn't really worried about it from my point of view, but just as a principle. If we're going to have a country without semi-automatic weapons, we've got to get rid of them and I just thought, 'Why wait?'

"I can only live my values. And once I got to that point that I realised that we shouldn't have these in the country, I couldn't in all conscience keep it knowing that."

He said the presence of armed police at the Masterton police station was a little bit daunting, and he joked that he hoped they wouldn't see him as a threat.

"It was definitely surreal - walking towards a New Zealand police station with an armed police woman in sunglasses just staring you down the whole time," he said.

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John Hart said the benefits of owning the rifle were not outweighed by the risks it poses. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's quite a long walk ... in the sort of courtyard, so it was quite a long time of sort of trying to look as un-threatening as I could, thinking if she decides that I'm a threat it's all over."

However, the firearm was handed over for destruction without a hitch, which Mr Hart described as "a relief".

"Partly of leaving the police station alive, but also just not having that firearm anymore.

"I feel much more comfortable knowing that it's not in the custody of police and it's going to be destroyed ... I've owned that firearm for its entire life and I can categorically say its never hurt a human, and now I can say that it never will - and that gives me some peace."

He said his tweet about surrendering his rifle had attracted plenty of attention, both from supporters and detractors, after being retweeted more than 5000 times and receiving more than 30,000 likes.