Case Number: 653

Council Meeting: MAY 1997

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion

A complaint to the New Zealand Press Council by a reader of The Dominion newspaper over an article published in December has been dismissed.

Mr J.Nicholson took issue with an article headlined “Slack gun laws help criminals” published on 7 December 1996. In his letter of complaint Mr Nicholson referred to items under a sub-heading of “NZ firearms facts” when he claimed the article was poorly researched and unsubstantiated. He offered two statements in the article to back up his claims.
* One in five homicides is committed with a firearm
* In a typical year 99 people are shot to death - one every four days - and 13 people 19 years or younger died of gunshot wounds.

Mr Nicholson suggested that these statements indicated that the total number of people who die at the hands of others would be 495 - a figure markedly different from the figures he had seen elsewhere.

In response the editor indicated that the phrase “99 people are shot to death” referred also to gun related suicides. He included some figures from the ministry of health for 1993, as representative data.

The Council declined to uphold the complains. However, the Council noted with disappointment, that whilst the paper had proved that its published figures were realistic, it had not authenticated them. Had the paper been in a position to do this at an early stage, the complaint might have been resolved without involving the Council.