While international shooting tragedies reignite debates around gun laws, a local gun dealer says tighter legislation here will only drive more guns underground.
Figures released under the Official Information Act show of the 234,000-plus gun licence holders in New Zealand, 5516 are permitted to possess military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs).
There are more than 24,000 firearm licence holders in the Bay of Plenty.
United States Vice-President Joe Biden is due to release recommendations from his gun violence taskforce this week in response to calls for tighter gun-control laws - specifically around the ownership of military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
It follows the second-deadliest school shooting in US history last month in which 20 children and six staff were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The gunman used two pistols and a Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle - a gun available to Kiwi arms enthusiasts with E category licences.
Licensed Rotorua firearms dealer Darryl Aston said registered firearm owners were not the problem.
"The biggest problem you've got with gun issues in New Zealand as well as other countries is that you've got a situation where there's unregistered firearms circulating and held underground.
"That's come about because over the years there's been a lot of law changes.
"Each time a major law change comes in it requires people to treat the firearms they own legally in a different way. What happens is, not everyone complies with that."
Mr Aston said many registered firearm owners belonged to clubs and were vetted by police through regular checks and had to meet specific criteria to own restricted guns. "As a result of that they're not really the people that are the ones who are likely to go off and cause a crime with a firearm."
Mr Aston said individual firearm registration would only force more guns underground.
A former High Court judge appointed to review gun control laws in 1996 after two shootings by police and the Aramoana massacre is again questioning the need for civilians to possess MSSAs.
"I do find difficulty in seeing any purpose in having multiple-firing weapons of the military style - I can't see what purpose they serve to us in this country," Sir Thomas Thorp said.
The most recently available figures from Statistics New Zealand show more than 26,000 firearms were imported in 2011. And although firearm owners are licensed, there is no way of knowing how many guns they possess because of a decision in 1982 to abandon a system of licensing each gun in favour of licensing gun owners.
In 1996, Police National Headquarters estimated there were 1.2 million firearms nationwide.
Police annual reports show 599 firearm licences were revoked in the 2011/12 financial year for gun control breaches - 79 under the Domestic Violence Act.
The number of illegal firearms in circulation is unknown. However Sir Thomas' review estimated 100,000 guns were held by unlicensed owners. His report recommended that all firearms be registered - not just handguns and MSSAs, licences be renewed every three, instead of 10, years, and MSSAs be banned and made subject to a government buy-back. To date most of Sir Thomas' recommendations have been ignored by Parliament.