A number of questions have been raised with us in submissions or in meetings relating to the issue of granting a firearms licence to the individual, which we now address.
Did the individual have a history of recreational firearms use?
There is no evidence the individual had a history of recreational firearms use in New Zealand before applying for his licence, aside from some shooting with his referees in 2013 and possibly in August 2017. Despite not having a firearms licence at that time, the individual could, under sections 22(2)(a) and 50(5) of the Arms Act 1983, lawfully use firearms (other than military style semi-automatic firearms or restricted weapons) if under the immediate supervision of the holder of a firearms licence.
When we spoke to him, the individual told us that he had, on two occasions, used firearms overseas at tourist attractions.
What were the reasons the individual gave to New Zealand Police for wanting a firearms licence?
The individual told New Zealand Police in his interview that he wanted a licence for hunting, leisure, target shooting and sport.
Was there a security inspection of the individual’s firearms storage?
Did New Zealand Police in Dunedin conduct an interview with the individual for his firearms licence application? If an interview was conducted, did it meet the required standards?
If an interview was conducted with the individual for his firearms licence application, were any red flags raised?
A Dunedin Vetting Officer interviewed the individual at his home and checked and confirmed that he had appropriate storage facilities in his home for any future firearms. The Vetting Officer asked the individual questions in accordance with the operational guidance provided by the Firearms Licence Vetting Guide. The individual can present well and we are satisfied that he did so when interviewed. The Vetting Officer recorded that the individual did not show any unusual behaviour during the visit or interview.
What checks, if any, were made with Australian Police, including his criminal history, whether he had a firearms licence in Australia and to reveal any behavioural and/or health concerns from his home community?
No checks were made with Australian Police with respect to the individual’s firearms licence application. The vetting process required overseas checks only when an applicant disclosed a criminal conviction. The individual had no convictions in Australia and he accurately disclosed having received speeding tickets while in Australia.
Medical records were not requested as during the interview process the individual did not present with, or disclose, any noticeable health issues (mental or otherwise). In addition, his referees did not raise any issues regarding the individual’s physical or mental health.
How could the individual have been deemed fit and proper when he had only recently arrived in New Zealand, had no family connections here and no employment?
Did New Zealand Police in Dunedin follow correct procedure when they approved the individual’s firearms licence application?
Why was the individual’s firearms licence application approved without the two references meeting the relevant criteria?
There was no information provided to New Zealand Police to indicate that the individual was not a fit and proper person to possess firearms. He had no criminal history and, on material supplied to New Zealand Police, offered legitimate reasons to possess firearms and did not disclose any apparent medical issues.
Although the Arms Regulations 1992 require a near-relative to be nominated as a referee, there is no requirement under the regulations for that referee to be interviewed. New Zealand Police practice requires referees for first time applicants to be interviewed in person. Where this is not possible in the case of a nominated near-relative referee, a New Zealand-based referee who knows the applicant best can be a substitute referee.
The individual originally nominated his sister as his near-relative referee but, because she lived in Australia and could not be interviewed in person, she was not accepted as a referee by the licensing staff who dealt with the application. Gaming friend, who was substituted for her, was the person in New Zealand who knew the individual best.
In chapter 7 of this Part we explain the aspects in which we consider that the administration of the firearms licensing process failed to meet required standards.
Had the individual’s referees met him in person?
Were the individual’s referees from a recently created online chatroom?
Were the individual’s referees related?
Were New Zealand Police in Dunedin aware that the two references provided by the individual were sourced from an online forum who the individual had not met in person, and that they were parent and child?
The referees are related – they are parent and child. The Firearms Licensing Clerk and the former District Arms Officer should have realised, and probably did, that they were parent and child, although they could not recall whether this was so. The Waikato Vetting Officer was aware of this relationship.
Gaming friend first met the individual in 2007 through playing online video games and, prior to the individual applying for a firearms licence, had spent approximately 21 days with him in person in New Zealand in 2013 and August 2017.
Gaming friend’s parent first met the individual in 2013, when the individual stayed with the family. The individual spent further time with gaming friend’s parent when he stayed with the family in August 2017. Over these two visits, the individual spent seven days in total at the house of gaming friend’s parent and, in this sense, had spent some seven days in their company. Gaming friend’s parent and the individual did not interact online.
Did the individual’s referees give the same answers to the vetting questions?
When New Zealand Police interviewed the individual’s two referees, and they had the same answers, why did it not raise any alarm bells?
The referees gave similar, but not the same, answers to the vetting questions. Each of them was interviewed in Waikato by the same Vetting Officer but on different days.
Gaming friend described the individual as a friend whom they had known for ten years, initially meeting the individual through playing video games online and that they had been in regular contact since that time. Gaming friend’s parent described the individual as a friend whom they had known for four years.
Both referees said that they had gone shooting with the individual and supported his application. Both are recorded as having responded “No reasons known” in response to a question of whether they knew of reasons why a licence should be refused. We take this as recording the substance of the answers given – that they were not aware of reasons why a licence should be refused.
Were the individual’s referees white supremacists or neo-Nazis?
There is no evidence to suggest that the referees are white supremacists or neo-Nazis.
While gaming friend had interactions with the individual in which the individual expressed far right political, racist and Islamophobic views, gaming friend did not usually respond to, or engage with, these expressions of opinion. Likewise, gaming friend did not object to them.
Since 15 March 2019, have New Zealand Police issued a new directive informing vetting staff to take precautions regarding right-wing extremism, including warning signs such as tattoos, Celtic or Norse symbolism, books on the Third Reich, confederate flags, and reference to [the Oslo terrorist]?
There is currently no new nationwide policy in place regarding inquiries into right-wing extremism with respect to an applicant for a firearms licence, although two Districts have issued guidance for staff.
The guidance material produced by the two Districts was originally an intelligence product developed by, and shared within, New Zealand Police.
If New Zealand Police (within the two relevant Districts) identify an applicant who belongs to an extreme right-wing or white supremacist group, this information may be recorded in their National Intelligence Application profile. It may also cause New Zealand Police to conduct further investigations to determine whether the applicant is fit and proper to hold a firearms licence.
Please supply the number of refused applications for firearms licences in the past ten years, broken down by ethnic background (if possible).
Between 2014 and 2018, 2.1 percent of all new applications for a standard licence were declined by New Zealand Police. New Zealand Police do not break down these figures by ethnic background. Refer to the graphic in chapter 4 of this Part for more information.
How do New Zealand Police track foreign nationals who import firearms?
Any person intending to import firearms into New Zealand must possess a current firearms licence, and a permit issued by New Zealand Police. Firearms will be inspected by New Zealand Customs Service prior to the shipment being released to the importer. There is no other tracking and no distinction is drawn between foreign nationals and New Zealand citizens.
Is the person who signed off on the individual’s online ammunition purchases the same person who was the investigating officer on the Bain family murders?