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A Significant Distortion of the Truth

Recent statements attributed to the Commissioner of Police, Andrew Coster, have repeated previous allegations from police that gangs acquire their firearms from licensed firearms owners. That is a significant distortion of the truth and by implication Coster maligns a quarter of a million carefully and properly vetted New Zealanders.

The Commissioner very conveniently fails to mention that 12 gang members who had “wrongly” been issued with firearms licenses were the conduit to gangs for a large number of firearms. Wrong, because no member of a gang would meet the “fit and proper” criteria required to hold a firearms license. If they had been issued with licenses, then those licenses should have been revoked. That would have been logical and easy. Police have a list of gang members and they have a list of licensed firearms owners so a simple comparison of the two lists for match ups would have not only been obvious but easy to do. Clearly, that has not been done.

It is known that some of that 12 bought up large in order to supply guns to their gang associates, so it is easy to see how police can say “hand on heart” that the gangs are getting their guns from licensed firearms owners. However, the reality is quite different and it is extremely disappointing that our New Zealand police lacked the integrity to acknowledge the truth.

This situation not only offends the properly vetted firearms owners, it begs the question of why those 12 firearms licenses were ever issued in the first instance and more importantly why they remained valid and were not revoked. One has to question police administration efficiency.

In this regard, we are reminded that the Royal Commission held that police failings in issuing the Mosque shooter Tarrant with a firearms license also emanated from sloppy police work. These twelve gang related license holders seem to be yet another example of poor police vetting?

To further illustrate the falsehood of the Commissioner’s claims we obtained the following data for the most recent 10 years through Official Information Act enquiries to police:

1. An annual average of only 9 holders of a firearm license have been prosecuted for supplying firearms to unlicensed people (not necessarily or exclusively gang members). Police and/or Police Association media statements suggest a much greater number.

2. Annually an average of 188 license holders report a burglary where firearms are taken. (The number shows a slight increase in the most recent 5 years). Police and/or Police Association statements do not usually state numbers but they imply a much larger number.

3. The total number of firearms reported stolen from license holders average 567 per year. Yet an earlier OIA response states police seize some 1300 unlawfully held guns each year. This clearly rebuts Commissioner Coster’s claim that gangs get their guns from licensed firearms owners. We have always been of the opinion that gangs import guns along with their narcotics imports.

4. An average figure for firearms reported stolen that are recovered is 32 per year. (one is tempted to ask how effective NZ Police are; of course, we do sympathise with police on this aspect as the first thing that a gang member will do is a make a 5 second pass across the stolen firearm with an angle grinder to remove serial numbers).

As an aside, we point out that simple act with a grinder makes a mockery of the police “justification” for the new Firearms Register to be implemented in two years time.

5. On average 3 firearms are reported lost each year, although it should be noted that this number is declining. Very few of these appear to be recovered (4 in 11 years).’ We would make two observations on this.

(a) In our view this small number is a recognition that firearms are treated by licensed firearms owners as valuable assets (or even treasured possessions)

(b) It is highly likely that losses could be by hunters in difficult and/or dangerous terrain

6. Police themselves lose on average 2 firearms of their own each year due to loss or theft (interestingly their OIA response on this point failed to include the 11 firearms stolen from Palmerston North police station last year nor those stolen from police cars). The comparison is stark. Licenced Firearms Owners loss as a percentage of the total owned is 0.00013% and the police loss is 0.033% i.e police are 300 times more likely to lose a firearm than a licensed firearms owner.

In Summary

  • Just 0.0035% of the total population of licensed firearm owners are prosecuted for supplying guns to unlicensed people.
  • Less than half the guns seized by police are those stolen from licensed owners so where do the bulk come from?
  • It is our contention that most guns circulating in the underworld (250,000 estimate) are those accumulated over many years, (“bring backs” from two world wars and other conflicts) along with more modern firearms smuggled into the country with $millions of drugs.
  • Added to this police have provided 12 known gang associates with a firearm license so it is no wonder that criminals have ready access to firearms.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry – No Accountability

Firearm owners have waited 19 months for the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attacks, in the firm belief that it would vindicate their view that they were in no way responsible for this heinous crime.  Regardless of the fact that our Security Intelligence services failed to detect any warning signs it is well known that the police failed in their duty to properly assess the suitability of Brenton Tarrant to own a firearm and went ahead and issued him with a firearm licence.

Multiple delays

Originally planned to be released in December 2019 the Commissioners were granted a number of time extensions, due to the numbers of people to be interviewed and also delays caused by Covid 19 lock down, with a final date of 26 November.

The inquiry’s report was provided to Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti on 27 Novemberand was publicly released on December 8, after first being shared with victims’ families and political party leaders.

Evidence suppressed

Many firearm owners were shocked and angered to learn that:

Evidence given by ministers and public sector bosses to the Inquiry will be suppressed for 30 years.
An interview with the Australian-born terrorist will never be released out of concern it could inspire and assist further attacks.
A number of individuals involved in the inquiry would also have their identities suppressed, including the police officers who vetted Tarrant for his firearms licence and the people who provided references for him.

It seems that despite the 51 deaths no one is to be held accountable for the failings of state agencies that contributed to this tragedy.

Numerous Failures by Police

We finally got to see the report for ourselves on the 8th December and this is what we learned from Section 5:

District firearms staff are given limited initial training and, in recent years, no ongoing training and current training standards are outdated and inconsistent across New Zealand Police.
Licensing staff are not trained to go beyond what is in the Firearms Licence Vetting Guide.
The unusual nature of the individuals firearms licence application was not appreciated.
The Dunedin Vetting Officer did not inquire of the individual how well he knew his referees
The order of interviews did not follow the ordinary process where referees are interviewed before the applicant
All of those we spoke to who engaged with this issue agreed that this level of interaction between the individual and gaming friend was insufficient to justify using them as a substitute for a near-relative referee. This included experienced members of New Zealand Police.
We consider the standard licensing practice to which we have just referred is inappropriately limited
We are of the view that the guidance given by New Zealand Police to licensing staff was inadequate, as was their training.

and finally and most important of all the Commission says as its final word on that section of their report:

We find that New Zealand Police failed to meet required standards in the administration of the firearms licensing system.


As our President Neville Dodd said in a press release
Clearly the responsibility for the dreadful atrocity rests with police for their incompetence in issuing Tarrant a licence.

Obviously we are pleased that the Prime Minister and Commissioner of Police apologised for these failures to the victims and their families, but note there was no apology forthcoming for the unnecessary victimisation of the firearm community.

 

Royal Commission Report is just the start.

The release of the Royal Commission of Inquiry report that looked into why the Police granted a gun license to the man who then committed the massacre on March the 15th last year is just the start, according to the Sporting Shooters Association of New Zealand [SSANZ].

President Neville Dodd says The Dept of Internal Affairs on behalf of the Commission says The Royal Commissions report has been written so that it can be published in full without the need for redaction to protect national security or privacy or confidentiality matters.We therefore question why the Minister is being so vague about the release date. What is concerning the Government so much that they are delaying the release of the report to ordinary New Zealanders?  

Dodd also says there are also many questions Police need to answer, for example why dont they know how many firearms are in New Zealand? They are given lists of firearm types and serial numbers for all firearms when they are imported.  This is a requirement imposed on firearms dealers.”  The dealers are required to notify the Police within 30 days of details, including serial numbers, of all firearms legally imported.

He also adds Police do keep records of all reported stolen firearms, but it seems they arent making the list available as they prefer to destroy any weapons involved in court cases.

On that subject, Police are required by law to inform insurance companies of any recovered stolen forearms, but we understand Police ceased that several years ago

Further to that, it seems that Police are destroying the stolen firearms that they recover instead of returning them to the rightful owners in an attempt to show the public and officials that they are taking a hard line on illegalguns.

Dodd says the Police clearly have a problem trying to account for illegally imported firearms.

We understand that more firearms are recovered every year than those reported as stolen. If so, that refutes claims by the Police Association and Police themselves that gangs and other undesirables rely on theft from Licensed Firearms Owners for their supply of illicit guns.It also points to there being an illegal importing pipeline in place for criminal gangs and Police are unable to put a stop to it.

Police recently put out a regional South Pacific report that claimed New Zealand was a regional hub for drug and gun smugglingsays Dodd, That suggests to everyone that they are losing the battle and have no idea what to do next