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Two Big Developments Today - Select Committee Report Out

Confirmation of multiple data breaches

First though – do you remember the brouhaha over the Police’s failure to keep the gun buyback database secure last year? The software error that left the personal and address information of tens of thousands of licenced firearms owners to possibly get into the hands of who knows.

At the time, the Police Minister, the Police, and the Prime Minister, claimed that only one person accessed the website. Jacinda Ardern downplayed the breach claiming it needed to be ‘kept in perspective’. The Government fended off questions by claiming that the error could only have left the door open for dealers and gunsmiths to access the information.

At the time we had reports that this was not true. We said this publicly, but the media trusted the assurances of the Police. But our lawyers had difficulty getting the information verified – as you can imagine, when the Police are deciding how much to compensate you for surrendered firearms, the last thing you want to do is publicly call them out!

But earlier today, we released a legal affidavit from one of those we had heard from earlier. The person could see people’s names, dates of birth, and address information but was not a dealer or gunsmith – he only logged-in to the system to check on the process of a firearm he had handed in for compensation. Click here to read a redacted version of the legal affidavit.

With confirmation that the Government’s assurances where wrong, the questions from last year are re-ignited. How safe will a full firearm register ever be? How reliable are the Police's claims about who accessed the information? And what were the results of the promised investigation into how the original flaw occurred?

In my comments to media on behalf of COLFO, I commended the bravery of the person behind this affidavit. Many of the others that told us they saw firearm registration details were scared by the vindictive and legalistic Police reaction. They feared they may be prosecuted for accidentally accessing private data.

Now we have multiple testimonies, we can turn to the real issue: the fallibility of an online register of firearms. Why are they proceeding with a plan to turn this breakable database into one listing the location of every (legal) firearm in New Zealand?

Select Committee Report looks to be disappointing

As we were finalising this email this afternoon, the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee reported back on the Arms Legislation Bill.

Right now our lawyers are working through the detail, but our initial impressions are that MPs have chosen to limit changes to window dressing.

Some of the ridiculous measures have been smoothed off but not abandoned. We expected at least this – so many submissions explained how bad they were.

There are one or two sensible improvements such as retaining 10-year licences after your first 5 years, but most improvements are in the category “less stupid” rather than “sensible”.

From what NZ First tweeted on Friday, we had hoped to see changes we could describe as “more effective – better aimed at terrorist arms – more likely to reduce criminal access and use of firearms”. We can’t see anything like that – in some areas, it gives the Police more power to make up the rules as they go.

The most damaging and expensive proposals are still there – such as the regulation of shooting clubs that may lose them their volunteer committees and turn shooting groups underground, where the failed confiscation has already driven thousands of firearms that were previously held safely in lawful hands.

National and ACT make it clear they oppose the report. National's Brett Hudson told media:

"The Government has lost sight of the point of the changes to our Arms Legislation and is targeting the wrong people. Instead of focusing on criminals and gang members, the Government is heaping more costs and regulations onto law-abiding New Zealanders."

One member of our team is clinging to the hope that NZ First has supported this Committee’s Clayton’s refinement of the Bill (the changes you make when you’re not making changes) because it would not be clear NZ First was insisting on them if they came from the Select Committee. If instead, they bring their real improvements in at the next stage (moving amendments within Parliament) shooting sportspeople will know just who to thank. But that's just speculation.

Next steps

We will send a more informative report in the next day or so. Our lawyers advise that they are not confident that reading the Committee’s explanation of what they think they have done, is quite as informative as working our way thru all the technical legal language. It’s the fine print that matters.

Here is the link to the Select Committee's report. Note the minority views from the National and ACT Parties on page 24 onwards.

So this fight is far from over. We'll be in touch soon once our lawyers have worked through all the detail and we finalise our plan on where to from here.

In the meantime, thank you for your support.

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