Terror in Chch

Shooter trained at Otago gun club

The man charged in court today over the Christchurch mosque shooting belonged to an Otago rifle club and practised shooting a military-style weapon on its range.

When Brenton Tarrant turned up to the Bruce Rifle Club south of Dunedin he seemed like any other gun enthusiast.

His handling of firearms was good and he followed all the rules.

Today, members of the club are in shock as news that the man at the centre of the Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks was one of its members.

“Brenton just presented as a regular guy…. We scrutinise our members obviously, but in relation to the basic rules of the arms code and how they handle firearms and follow the rules. We do not scrutinise them to assess if they are white supremacist nationalists because as far as we knew, we didn’t have those types in NZ,” says Scott Williams, club vice-president.

Tarrant joined the club in early 2018 and in the manifesto he posted online before the terrorist attack on the mosques took place, he talks about training to handle firearms.

The Bruce Rifle Club caters for shooters who own military-style rifles.

It’s likely that he was referring to, at least in part, practising at the Bruce Rifle Club near Milburn about 50 minutes drive south of Dunedin.

The club's range is situated in the Akatore Forest, part-owned by Chinese interests, and caters for shooters who own military-style rifles.

The club’s website gives details on competitions it runs where the aim “is to use rifles and ammunition matching as close as is practical/possible to issued service rifle and issue cartridge”.

Asked by Newsroom how often Tarrant was at the rifle range, Williams said he couldn’t be sure as police had taken away all the attendance records.

“I ran into him three or four times and he seemed fine, nothing out of the ordinary. Who would have thought? I am just shocked, stunned, dismayed. Just can’t imagine he could do such a terrible thing.”

Williams said Tarrant used an AR-15 when he was at the club.

The rifle has been promoted as "America's rifle" by the National Rifle Association. The semi-automatic has been used in several mass killings in the United States.

Police on site at Tarrant's former residence in Somerville St in Dunedin. 

The military version of the rifle is the M-16 and differs from the AR-15 in that it can be used in fully automatic mode.

Anyone with a firearms licence can own an AR-15 in its standard form.

The Otago Daily Times reported Tarrant had lived in Dunedin since at least 2017 and has been described by his neighbours as quiet and someone who liked to talk about his travel.

The city has been on high alert today, and this afternoon NZ Rugby called off the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and Crusaders which was to be played at Forsyth Barr stadium tonight as a “mark of respect”.

Thousands of Canterbury fans are in Dunedin for the match, and police reinforcements are also visibly present in the city.

Sirens can be frequently heard as police move around the city - with a security alert drawing a posse of police cars to Forsyth Barr Stadium around 11.30am. They were later stood down.

A police presence was also felt in the usually quiet suburb of Anderson’s Bay this morning, as officers surrounded Tarrant’s former address in Somerville St. A bomb disposal device and squad entered the house but cordons were lifted before midday.

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