23 Dec 2013

Spike in gun sales in New Caledonia worries French High Commissioner

5:40 am on 23 December 2013

The French high commissioner in New Caledonia has expressed concern at the spike in firearms sales after last month's announcement that Paris would tighten gun laws before the end of the year.

Jean-Jacques Brot says sales have doubled while the local press says weapon sales have grown tenfold.

His comment comes only weeks after he warned that weapons should no longer be sold as if the territory was a haven of eternal peace.

There are suggestions that now more than 100,000 rifles are now in circulation.

There have been several shooting incidents in public as well as eight homicides in the past year, which a leading politician, Philippe Gomes, says has raised New Caledonia's armed crime rate to three times that of France.

A hunter's organisation says alcohol abuse is behind the violence but concedes that with the approach of a possible independence referendum people have stocked up.

Political unrest in the 1980s left dozens of people dead, both civilians and security forces.