Scepticism remains about the effectiveness of the new firearms registry in terms of reining in gun use and possession by criminals but Federated Farmers is satisfied concerns raised about practicality and confidentiality have been taken seriously.
“On balance, Feds does support the registry,” national board member and rural security spokesperson Richard McIntyre says.
“There will always be those who choose to operate outside the law and it’s likely that only legally held arms will be entered in the registry. But perhaps it will stop or slow the rate of new illegal firearms getting into the hands of criminals and create some accountability for those who are supplying them.”
For example, if someone was to buy a couple of pump-action shotguns and a rifle from a retailer or another firearms licence holder, the transfer of possession would be registered. Prior to the registry there might be no record of what subsequently happens to those arms; they could be passed off to the criminal community. But now, when the owner goes to renew a firearms licence, or there is a gunsafe check by police or Firearms Safety Authority staff, s/he would be accountable for what happened to those firearms.
As of June 24 this year, all firearms licence holders are required to register arms in their possession, including pistols, restricted weapons, specially dangerous airguns (PCPs) major parts and pistol carbine conversion kits. There’s no cost to do so. Antique firearms and airguns do not need to be registered, and neither does ammunition (nor do you need to record sales or purchases of ammunition to or from other firearms licence holders).
There’s good information on the new registry and its requirements at www.firearmssafetyauthority.govt.nz Federated Farmers also organised a webinar recently to members’ questions to managers at Te Tari Pūreke/The Firearms Safety Authority.
Feds’ concerns about the registry fell into two broad categories – security and practicality.
“We wanted confidence that the information collected about who owns what guns, and where they are kept, is kept very secure. If that information were to fall into the wrong hands, you’d essentially have a shopping list for criminals as to what firearms are held, and where,” McIntyre said.
“We’ve also had enough of red tape on a whole lot of fronts. So we didn’t want farmers who use firearms as tools day to day being tied up in cumbersome and impractical restrictions.”
With the registry guidelines now published, and with the answers during the webinar from Te Tari Pūreke Director of Partnerships Mike McIlraith, Partnerships Manager Ewan Kelsall and Senior Partnership Advisor Kendra Hill, it’s clear Feds’ concerns have been heard, McIntyre said.
McIlraith said police had held licence holder and firearms information for many decades already “and it has remained secure”.
It’s significantly more complex to keep paper forms and documents private and secure, so Te Tari Pūreke decided those with firearms will not be able to register using a paper form.
Personal information provided for the registry will be held and managed in accordance with the Privacy Act. As well, the Arms Information System, which supports MyFirearms and the Firearms Registry, has been classified restricted. Staff are vetted and there are limits on what data can be accessed by staff in different roles. They can only access it on a Police device while on the Police network. Records are kept on what systems are accessed and by whom, and these are reviewed for suspicious or unusual activity – with randomised checks.
Te Tari Pūreke states the registry has robust authentication, including two-factor verification.
McIlraith said on the Feds webinar that frontline police may choose to access the register when responding to a call-out – for example, a family harm incident – because knowledge of what firearms are registered to the person/address can inform the best tactical response. But for police or Te Tari Pūreke staff acting for regulatory purposes – for example a routine check of a gunsafe for the number/type of firearms registered – they must give seven days’ notice and attend at a reasonable/agreed time.
Federated Farmers argued strongly for the ability to temporarily transfer firearms between licensed parties without the need for a transfer of possession in the register.
“A farm will often have centrally held firearms that are used by staff who have a firearms licence, often across multiple properties,” Richard McIntyre said.
The advice from Te Tari Pūreke is that arms in centralised secure storage and used by a range of people can all be registered by a single licence holder. Anyone with a firearms licence and relevant endorsement (if applicable), or appropriately supervised persons, can access the firearms.
If another licence holder has possession of the arms item (meaning they have effective control of it) for more than 30 days, those items will need to be transferred to them in the Registry. (They can be transferred in the registry for a shorter period; they must be transferred if possession goes past the 30 day mark.)
McIlraith gave this example on the webinar: “So I have a firearms licence and I go to your place, Richard, and say ‘hey, can I borrow your .308 to go deer hunting out the back for a few days, like we talked about’ – no problem [or need for a transfer of possession in the registery].
“If there was a regulatory check in that period, and only two of the three guns registered to you are in the safe, you’d explain the circumstances and who has the other gun. Everything’s ka pai. Police would take a pragmatic view around that.”
If a firearm is taken to the gunsmith for repairs and it’s for less than 30 days, there’s no need for a transfer in the registry. (McIlraith explained there is something of a ‘hybrid’ period for the next two years in terms of gunsmith obligations – www.firearmssafetyauthority.govt.nz has more details).