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Final Weeks of Firearms Hand-in an Unmitigated Disaster


The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) says the human error behind the availability of highly sensitive firearm location data held by Police has marred the final weeks of one of the Government’s biggest actions in 2019 – its response to the March attacks on Christchurch mosques.

It may now never be known how many people viewed the private data held on a Police website for owners to notify that they held prohibited firearms. But it is clear the database was mistakenly opened to unauthorised people, leading the Police to be sufficiently uncertain of the system’s security to shut it down for the essential final weeks of the hand-in.

Lawyers for COLFO formally wrote to Police yesterday on what it has been able to confirm of the claims of access. Lawyers Franks Ogilvie are satisfied that more than one person viewed private data, but says details are imprecise and inconclusive.

Franks Ogilvie says they cannot know via people’s testimony with the same certainty that the Police’s IT specialists should be able to determine via website access data.

Nicole McKee says the amount of access is not as important as the extent of the weakness; that a simple human error changing access settings made some of the most sensitive data on New Zealanders viewable by unauthorised people.

“The tool for implementing the Government’s hasty response to the March attack was compromised and shut down – and remains closed with only three days to go for people to register that they hold a firearm that will be prohibited at midnight Friday.

“If the Police are so confident in their IT specialists and claim that it was just a mistake over access settings, they would have restarted the system.

“The error has been an unmitigated disaster for the Police. They have wrecked the trust of owners right at the time they need them to hand in firearms.

“They’ve embarrassed the Government by demonstrating the unreliability of the centrepiece of the follow-up firearm changes; a register of all firearms.”

Nicole McKee added that the hand-in and compensation programme had also been plagued by Police uncertainty over which firearms and parts were included or excluded from the ban, uncertainty over compensation for unexpected models, delays to appointing dealer hand-in channels and certified gunsmiths for modification, and uncertainty over ammunition and parts.

“Everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. That’s what happens when you don’t think before you act. The Government should have waited until the report of the Royal Commission.”


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