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Fair and Reasonable Update: Firearms buyback, a total omnishambles

By Nicole McKee, COLFO

With only five days left, the firearms buyback is turning into a total omnishambles.



Yesterday we exposed that despite all of the media attention and advertising campaign by the Police, the firearms buyback has failed. We estimate, based on the Police’s own numbers, Custom’s records, and analysis of records from 11 firearms distributors that there are a total of 170,000 of the newly banned firearms in New Zealand. That means that the 47,486 Police report as having been handed in is only 28% of the total number.


It’s little wonder the Government has failed. The entire approach has been adversarial from the get-go with poor compensation, a ban on export (ruining the opportunity of selling up valuable collections), and Police destroying prized and historic firearms.


The Minister of Police and Prime Minister claim the ban was to remove military-style semi-automatics from circulation. Clearly though, they have failed.  There is simply no way Police will collect over 100,000 more firearms this week, before the ban comes into force. 


Yesterday, I joined Newstalk ZB to discuss the issue. Click here to listen on demand.



Last week the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee which has been examining the Government’s Arms Legislation Bill reported back to Parliament. You can read the Committee's interim report here.


Despite the almost total opposition to the Bill in the public hearings, the Committee announced it intends to fix just three of the most glaring issues: allowing owners not to update a firearm registry if a change in location is less than 30 days, providing a 7 day notice period before Police can inspect where an owner is keeping a firearm, and excluding small and non-exclusive parts from a registry.


While we welcomed the changes to some of the practical issues with the draft law, the changes will have a flow-on effect to other parts of the Bill and require significant redrafting. The poor drafting illustrated a lack of understanding of practical implications for firearms owners trying to remain compliant, contributing to a breakdown in the relationship between Police and owners. We remain of the view, like most submitters, that the Bill should be abandoned.



It seems the Police are not the only ones careless with firearms owners’ sensitive information. 


As you’ll see from the images below, sent in by a supporter of our campaign, enveloped letters from NZ Police and Customs allow anyone handling the mail to identify the recipients as licenced firearms owners, without having to open it.


First, a letter sent to an importer by the Police:




And then this; a letter from Customs:




These examples show that even simple mistakes like misfolded contents in envelopes can undermine a “secure” database. 


And the results could be devastating - such as thieves targeting the recipient to steal firearms, or using the information to make a fake firearm licence.  This is why licenced firearms owners generally keep a low profile.


Human error, as well as technology failure, is why licenced firearm owners don’t trust the Government’s planned registry of all firearms.



Our lawyers have written to the Privacy Commissioner about the breach of the Police’s buyback database outlining the importance of privacy for firearms owner information and calling on him to investigate.


We have asked the Privacy Commission to inquire into the usefulness of the collection of the private and sensitive data proposed in the Bill and review sceptically the benefits and dangers of this register in light of the recent data breach.


You can read the letter on our website here. We’ll let you know once we hear back.


Please keep the suggestions and tip-offs coming. We’ll be working over the summer period to keep highlighting the errors caused by the Government's rushed approach.


Thank you for your support.


Nicole McKee


Fair and Reasonable Campaign

Fair and Reasonable

PO Box 24020,

Manners Street,

Wellington 6142,

New Zealand


Keep up with Fair and Reasonable on Facebook.


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