New Zealand’s new firearms registry has only been online for about a month, but gun owners are already crying foul after an email sent by the Auckland Central Police District and the federal Firearms Safety Authority revealed the names and email addresses of more than 100 individuals on Tuesday thanks to a simple mistake that could and should have easily been caught beforehand,.
n an email sent shortly after noon on Wednesday, seen by the Herald, Auckland Central Police District firearms staff emailed more than 100 gun owners to warn them their listed firearms licence address may not be up to date.
Their email addresses, in many cases including their first and last names, were visible in the cc field, rather than hidden in the bcc section.
The visible addresses included various prominent Auckland residents, including lawyers, company directors, police officers and government officials.
The email was sent from the Auckland City Police District’s firearms email address and signed NZ police, but also carried the signature and logo of the new Firearms Safety Authority, set up to administer the newly launched gun register.
Asked whether it was police or the Firearms Safety Authority who sent the email, a police spokeswoman said it was the authority.
The sender attempted to recall the email shortly after it was sent, and also sent a second email asking recipients to delete the message due to an “error in sending”.
In a statement, Superintendent Richard Wilson, Te Tari Pūreke Firearms Safety Authority director of operations, confirmed it had sent the email to 147 recipients revealing the email address of the recipients to fellow licence holders.
“This incident is being treated seriously by Te Tari Pūreke, who have lodged this as a privacy breach and will be notifying the Office of the Privacy Commissioner,” Wilson said.
As Newstalk ZB reports, this isn’t the first time that the personal details of gun owners have been treated with casual disregard by the authorities. Last year thousands of gun owners had their personal information stolen by burglars who broke into the former Auckland central police station, which though no longer in use apparently still housed files containing all kinds of details about lawful gun owners in the city. You’d think that embarrassing theft of information might have led authorities to thoroughly safeguard this information going forward, but apparently that’s asking too much.
One firearms owner caught up in Wednesday’s leak said to make matters worse, the email saying his address was incorrect was wrong.
“The firearms officer literally came to our family home as part of a recent license renewal process,” he said.
“It is keystone cop stuff which would be funny if it didn’t put my family in danger.
“Gangs and criminals would no doubt love to get a copy of this shopping list, and now my information, the fact I’m a license holder, has been sent to 100 people whom I do not know.”
He said the leak of the list of owners was exactly the reason he was worried about handing his details over to the new firearms register.
ACT firearms spokesperson Nicole McKee said the error “shows once again that police are incapable of keeping licenced firearms owners’ information secure”.
“Licenced firearm owners already had little confidence in police’s ability to securely maintain and administer a gun registry and this latest mistake reinforces that. If police can’t even tell the difference between CC and BCC in an email how on earth can they keep records secure?” McKee said in a statement.
“This episode demonstrates once again that the full registration of firearms is a wasteful and dangerous exercise and ACT will repeal it. It also shows that the administration of information about firearms and their licenced owners needs to be removed from New Zealand Police and placed under the care of a truly independent and trusted firearms authority, which ACT has committed to establishing.”
How about New Zealand quit treating every gun owner as a potential criminal and start focusing on actual lawbreakers instead? Despite the country’s gun ban and compensated confiscation scheme in the wake of the mass murder at a Christchurch mosque in 2019, violent crime in the country has only gone up since then, and it’s not just gun owners who are taking notice.
With a general election just months away, political parties have been campaigning to get tough on crime, according to Hannah Short, a civil litigator in Auckland.
She told the BBC that while gun violence in New Zealand is still relatively rare, the country has experienced a fairly significant increase in crime recently, with gang membership going up in recent years.
“The public definitely see this as another example of crime increasing. People don’t feel safe in downtown Auckland at night anymore,” she said.
“The city is generally a lot less safe now post-Covid, as a lot more work from home full time,” she added.
Fewer legal gun owners, far less privacy, and more crime? Sounds like the country’s gun control crackdown is working exactly as gun owners predicted. Hopefully New Zealanders will vote for a new direction this fall, but I’m not holding my breath. Lawful gun owners have been scapegoated for years by New Zealand politicians like former prime minister Jacinda Ardern, and so far it hasn’t cost them any elections. Until the voters of New Zealand are ready to reject the anti-gun regime established a few years ago, things are likely to get even worse in the future, both from a crime and a civil rights perspective.