The following article courtesy of COLFO with permission.

COLFO Dossier

Real-life examples of how arms administration does not match the legislation.

Citizen made to fly to NZ for police vetting, then Police decide not to allow licence for non-residents

28 May 2020

Situation

A New Zealander living in Australia returns home a few times every year, and one of his favourite pastimes is going hunting with his New Zealand family.

In December last year, he applied for a firearms licence [renewal]. Police required him to fly to New Zealand to do the test and undertake in-person vetting to make sure he was a fit and proper person.

He came back home, did the test, and was vetted by a Police officer in early March.

After more than a week of delay and inquiries from the application, Police subsequently informed him that they would not progress his application because he lived overseas. They claimed that living in Australia prevented them verifying that he would continue to be a fit and proper person.

They said he must now apply for a visitors’ licence each time he came back to his homeland to hunt.

The problem

Our complainant had already told Police about his situation and that he lived in Australia.

They told him to come to New Zealand for the vetting – which took time and money. That is what is required by the standard process.

Police have reinterpreted the Arms Act and changed their processes, without engaging with those that are affected or seeking feedback from the firearms community.

The law gives Police the ability to provide firearms licences for less than the standard 10 years if the person is visiting New Zealand. Instead of doing this, they decided to deny a licence after an applicant started the licencing process.

What should have happened

Police were right to test and vet our applicant in-person.

Police should be consistent in how they administer the Arms Act. There was no transparency around this change in policy, and the applicant was expressly told he could obtain a 10-year licence if he went through the process.

Natural justice would suggest that at the very least Police should have proceeded with the application on the basis that it had started under a different policy regime.

The Police refunded the licence application. We believe they should have contributed to his travel costs, as he had travelled to New Zealand because they said he must.

Guidance for the LFO community

Keep details of your conversations with Police and challenge them on their legal and policy basis for decisions, especially if they quickly change their minds.