12 September 2019 COLFO Media Release
Police procedures allowed Tarrant gun licence and firearms
The Christchurch mosque attack might not have occurred had police had the resources to enforce firearms restrictions they control, according to the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO).
In a submission earlier this week to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the shootings, COLFO said the alleged perpetrator was less likely to have been licenced under the process in place before 2015, and would not have had large capacity magazines if police had followed advice to restrict their sale.
COLFO Chair Michael Dowling said it was clear that the alleged perpetrator should never have been deemed a ‘fit and proper’ person to own the guns and large capacity magazines used in the attack.
“He was able to slip through gaps created by a system chronically stretched by poor resourcing and funding, as well as a lack of expertise and knowledge.”
It appeared that Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant obtained a licence to own the firearms used in the attacks despite factors that should have alerted police to his unsuitability.
“We don’t know the background checks into Tarrant, but we do know he had travelled to unusual locations internationally, was not a New Zealand resident for long and was not involved with firearms as a hobby.
“Despite this, Tarrant applied for, and received, his firearms licence in 2017.
“This raises serious concerns for vetting procedures and whether the 2010 police vetting guide was adhered to during Tarrant’s licencing process. We understand that his referees had never met him in person, nor did they include a family member.”
Mr Dowling said that while details of the licencing of Tarrant were murky, his ability to commit the alleged crimes would have been reduced had police made changes COLFO had earlier recommended to the existing E category endorsement.
“It was a change of interpretation in 2009 that encouraged more imports of ‘non-military’ AR15 rifles for A category licence owners, and for those same owners to buy large capacity magazines that turned them into much more powerful firearms.
“COLFO had urged previously that large magazines be restricted consistent with E category firearms. Our submissions on that and many other issues were dismissed by police.”
Mr Dowling said the horrific tragedy might have been avoided had police worked with the firearms community rather than against it.
“In recent years the police have not effectively administered the Arms Act. They have not listened to external advice from experts.
“This stubbornness, combined with reductions in budget for background vetting and firearms safety, had a part in this terrible tragedy.”