New Zealand has temporarily shut down its gun buyback website after officials admitted it inadvertently provided access to some participants’ personal information. “It’s a shopping list for criminals,” Nicole McKee, from the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO)—a gun rights lobbying group in the nation—told The Guardian.
New Zealand Police investigated and issued an official release on Dec. 3 that explains, “Based on the audit we can confirm that full details for 35 people have been accessed. The information accessed includes name, address, contact number, firearms licence number and bank account details. In addition to this less than 500 people have had their name and addresses accessed.”
“Until yesterday, the Police scoffed at us,” McKee explained to American Rifleman in an e-mail on Dec. 2. “The Police Association’s President even said we were ‘scaremongering’ and a firearms register is no different from ‘registering your car, or your pets.’ The Police Minister, Stuart Nash, and the Police spokespeople have said that only a single dealer could access the information. This is totally wrong. We have now verified that many, many more people accessed the data. And contrary to what the Police have said, it wasn’t just firearms dealers.”
New Zealand earmarked NZ$200 million for the buyback during the summer after its legislature made ownership of certain firearms and parts illegal. By September money distributed to participating owners totaled only NZ$20 million. The government pays between 25 and 95 percent of the pre-tax price of turned in guns and equipment, depending on condition. Owners have until Dec. 20 to turn in items in violation of the new law.
Problems with the program surfaced only weeks after it began. According to a PBS report, one participant allegedly smuggled thousands of inexpensive magazines into the country and attempted to turn them in for a quick profit. His scheme ended only because New Zealand Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement was at the buyback, according to the article.
As for the most recent incident, Clement said on Dec. 3, “Today we will be calling the 35 people who have had their full details accessed to inform them of the privacy breach, provide advice on what they can do to ensure the ongoing security of their information and answer any questions they may have.” The official statement explains, “In addition to the phone call we will also be contacting the group of less than 500 people who have had their name and address accessed to inform them of the situation.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden told reporters, “Generally, the ability of this register to be utilized was done so that dealers could be part of this buyback scheme to now perhaps share information that would cause any people to have concern around the reliability of what’s being done or to case doubt more widely, I just really ask that those involved act in good faith…A mistake was made and they were given the wrong access.”
“Those affected are the decent people who in good faith handed in their firearms—and the Police didn’t even bother to make sure their personal and financial information was kept safe,” McKee concluded.