AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File
The compliance rate for New Zealand’s gun ban and compensated confiscation plan is abysmally low, but that’s not half as embarrassing for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as the fact that a database of some 70,000 gun owners, containing details of the firearms they own and their banking information, was apparently available for the public to access before it was abruptly taken down over the weekend.
Police say they are investigating after a member of the public made them aware of a potential privacy breach involving the firearms buyback programme.
In a statement, police said they were made aware by the person today, and that the online notification platform for the buy-back programme has been closed down while they investigate.
One group of New Zealanders opposed to the gun ban and compensated confiscation scheme says many of its members were able to access the database. If true, this would be a huge black eye for the government, which has promised gun owners that their personal information and privacy would be secure.
The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners told Newshub that information on 70,000 firearm hand-in notifications, the firearms and owner bank account numbers, was accessible to web page users.
“They were able to screenshot and download information. This means that gang members or other criminal elements could have accessed this information before our supporters found the breach,” a spokesperson says.
“Keep an eye on your bank account – possibly notify your bank to stop unusual transactions. You may consider whether you should take extra personal and home security precautions.
“This is exactly what we feared of an incompetent agency in charge of an online register.”
I don’t think this is necessarily the fault of an incompetent agency, to be honest. Data breaches of government databases happen all the time, even in the United States, which is one reason why a federal gun licensing or registration system is a bad idea. There’s certainly a black market demand for a list of gun owners in any particular community, especially if it comes with a “shopping list” of the guns that they own.
New Zealand’s “buyback” and gun amnesty will continue for another couple of weeks, but it’s clear that the program is a bust even before the ban officially goes into effect. Many citizens still haven’t handed over their firearms, and there were protests at several “buyback” events over the weekend, even before the news of the data leak broke.
None of this will have any impact on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, of course. She’d lose the respect of the international community if she backed away from her gun ban now, and frankly, she’s shown absolutely no indication that she has any desire to do that in the first place.
Gun owners in New Zealand can’t avoid this looming train wreck, but gun owners in the United States should be just as concerned about something similar happening here given that Democrat front-runners Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg all tout various gun licensing and/or registration plans on their campaign websites. If anti-gun advocates get their way, the federal government will start assembling its own database of gun owners and the firearms they own beginning in 2021, with its data breach sure to follow shortly thereafter.