Minutes from the Firearms Community Advisory Forum

November 7, 2016 11:00 pm
SUBJECT Firearms Community Advisory Forum
DATE Thursday 18 August 2016
TIME 0930 –1210
VENUE Level 15 Conference Rooms 3 &4
ATTENDEES Catherine Petrey, Geoffrey Dunn,Chris Jamieson,Paul Gatland,Rob Ngamoki,Julia Penney,Ray Vine,Alastair (Roly)Williams, Poh Boey, Paul Clark,Helen Morgan,Nicole McKee, Matthew Gibson,John Herbert,Trevor Dyke,Andrew Edgcombe,John Howat,Trent Smith, Rachael Dean
APOLOGIES Chris Scahill, Kirsty Marshall, Debbie Wakker, MFAT
 
MINUTES
ITEM 1 – Welcome and introduction
The Chair welcomed the Forum’s members and introduced two new members, Rachael Dean from Rural Women NZ and Trent Smith from NZ Retail. Members were advised of safety procedures and evacuation protocol. The Chair stated that the forum would be conducted under the Chatham House Rules – members are free to use the information received during the course of the meeting, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speakers, may be revealed. The aim of the meeting is to open up lines of communication, and as a result, create a culture of trust.

 

ITEM 2 – Action Points from last Meeting
1. Wildlife (Powers) Amendment Bill
This Bill is currently before the Select Committee, which is reviewing the Departmental Report. The proposed amendments enhance rangers’ ability to detect and investigate offences against the Wildlife Act. Police investigated whether a consequential amendment to the Arms Act was required so that rangers could seize firearms in the course of their duty under the Bill. The Department of Conservation’s view is that there is no need for a special provision in the Bill as section 73 of the Arms Act specifies that “any person who seizes any article, being a firearm, airgun, pistol, imitation firearm, restricted weapon, ammunition, or explosive, in the exercise of a power conferred on him by any Act may have possession of that article so long as he is acting in the exercise of that power and in connection with his official duties”. Police’s legal team also confirmed that this should cover rangers taking possession of firearms in the course of their duty.
2. Permit date recorded on import permits to be date of issue (not date of application)
Police reported that this has been actioned and will now apply to all future applications for import permits.

 

3. Official Information Act Database
A Police action point is to record all OIA requests on firearm issues and the response to these on our website. This is a work in progress. Police will follow the example of other government agencies and redact the names of the requesters. It was noted that Police deals with far more official information requests than other agencies.
ITEM 3 – Cross-agency Firearms Working Group Update and Next Steps
The Working Group last met at the end of July and is working with Customs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and the Department of Internal Affairs. Customs is reviewing internal processes and the Group is still following up on MFAT (processes between Police and MFAT) and the Department of Internal Affairs (leveraging the use of RealMe). Currently the Working Group is looking for Analysts to develop options. The Group will be looking for stakeholder input.
There was a presentation on the ‘Firearms Administration and Management’ project, where it was suggested that New Zealand’s firearms system is not making the best use of technology. Police is committed to ensuring that the community receives Better Public Services. Since New Zealand’s primary firearms legislation was introduced in 1983, areas of inefficiency have clearly emerged. Opportunities exist to make better use of modern technology, ensure consistency of service across the country, and improve information about firearms in New Zealand. It was theorised that if Police were able to make better use of technology, it will benefit both Police and the wider firearms community. It is envisaged that the Better Business Case framework will ensure clearer thinking and prevent failure in the future.

 

The Firearms Business Case will combine the development of the:
•Strategic case
•Economic case
•Commercial case
•Financial case, and
•Management case.
Multiple government bodies will be involved, including Police, Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). As an example, the commercial case relates to procurement, so it will look to MBIE’s expertise, while the financial case would be consulted with Treasury. This consultation is crucial to ensuring the best understanding of ideas. Some members were wary that advice might not be sourced from people with the appropriate skill set, as they believed was the case with the Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill. One member indicated that the Bill gave a blank cheque in what could be charged, as it included terms and phrases such as ‘costs’, ‘indirect costs’ and ‘potential costs of services that are not to be provided directly to the person who pays the fee or charge’. The member indicated that these terms are very broad and give little scope to audit those being charged.
Police is currently consolidating the strategic case and has:
•Completed the Investment logic mapping workshops
•Visited Police Districts to hear from the Firearms team members who provide services; and
•Begun preparing the ground work for the economic case – working on options for early 2017 (not including legislation).
There will be consultation on the economic case, before it is signed off by a Deputy Commissioner. Some members suggested that the underlying direction of the project might overly rely on good
internet access and that this might be problematic for rural communities. The presenter suggested
that internet access is just one aspect to the approach. For this reason, one member proposed that rural communities should have the opportunity to ‘rural-proof’ any options by ensuring they can contribute to the policy making process.
One member queried how much revenue generated from firearm licence fees and endorsements came back to Police. Police advised that firearms licensing1 by Police is funded from a combination of Crown revenue and revenue obtained from fees for applications for firearms licences, dealers’ licences, and firearm licence endorsements. The revenue obtained from fees was $3,103,723 in
2013/14 and $4,226,946 in 2014/15. This covers less than half the cost of firearm licensing, which can be seen from the output expense statements for firearms licensing included in the Police Annual Reports which record that the actual amounts spent on this output were $8,609,000 in 2013/14 and
$10,283,000 in 2014/15. The budget allocation in each of those years, funded from Crown and third party revenue, was $9,576,000 and $11,676,000 respectively.
Police indicated that fees and costs are being further analysed as a part of the Firearms project (also accessible on http://www.police.govt.nz/sites/default/files/publications/firearms-community- advisory-forum-minutes-may-2016.pdf). One member indicated that given concerns around whether the basis for calculating the charges was fair and equitable, the basis for particular fees should be as transparent as possible. One major reason for this is that the firearms community believes that they receive mediocre service. Police confirmed that this is going to be looked at in the project. Any adjustment to the level of Police resources will depend upon greater understanding of the problem and the outcome of the project. Members expressed concern about the amount of time that this will take. On the subject of costs, one member expressed disappointment with the fee-setting process and the inclusion of overheads in the Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill and did not consider this to be the appropriate way to calculate fees.
ITEM 4 – Law and Order Committee Inquiry into illegal possession of firearms
The Law and Order Committee received 98 written submissions on the ‘Inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms’, including four late submissions. On 10, 17 and 24 August, submitters have been presenting oral submissions before the Committee. Police is currently preparing a Departmental Report based on the issues raised in the submissions. There is no clear indication of any recommendations that the Committee might be favouring, although common themes from the submissions include improving burglary resolution rates and noting the serial numbers of firearms in more cases. It is unclear when the committee will report back.
There are no major surprises from the submissions, although there is a fear being expressed by some submitters that members of the public have the ability to hack into Police’s database to find the names and details of firearms licence holders. Police continues to focus on maintaining safe and secure information to minimise the risk of successful hacking.
It is also important to note that it is not within the Committee’s remit to make recommendations about increasing Police numbers generally, or in rural communities. Members also expressed reservations about TradeMe’s submission which asked for access to Police’s national firearms licence register to electronically verify the details of firearms licence holders. Police explained that TradeMe had previously approached Police with a proposal to develop greater security around their firearm sales, and that if a database were developed, ultimately it would be available to commercial traders generally.

 

A member also raised concerns about the current mail order system (as required in section 43A of the Arms Act) and its inefficiencies, particularly in rural communities. Firearms users and sellers may not necessarily have a mobile or email address, but the forms require these details to purchase
1 This output covers the processing of applications for firearms licences, the issuing of licences, the verification of compliance with endorsed licences, enforcement, and the revocation of firearms licences. It also covers the work to ensure people who licences have expired have lawfully disposed of any firearms they have possessed.
a firearm. The forms are also not very easy to use, and may need to be altered. Members also questioned general duty constables’ knowledge of firearms. Police acknowledged that the system could be more user friendly. One member was of the view that the mail order system works for the most part. Police commented that people should consider going to their Arms Officer. However, one member indicated that this may involve considerable travel and cost for rural communities. The list of Arms Officers can found at http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/firearms/firearms- licensing-contact-details.
One member read from a copy of an email sent to Wellington Police by a person intending to purchase online using the available form who outlined considerable difficulties in completing the process, although Police advised that the person’s issues have been resolved.
Action point:
-Police to do some tidying up of the mail order system to ensure it can work smoothly. This issue can be revisited at the next meeting. Police will try to notify the forum ahead of this time if there are any changes.

 

ITEM 5 – Mountain Safety Council review
Police is not involved in the Mountain Safety Council’s (MSC) review and would prefer not to comment on it at this stage.
The MSC advised that it continues to review its programme, which includes engaging with relevant sector organisations that have a vested interested in firearms education. Its main focus remains on educating the firearms community and educating prospective firearm licence holders. A member expressed a desire for MSC to engage with the rural community, and the MSC suggested that they have already started doing so, having met Federated Farmers. The MSC have also run 22 workshops, where they have been able to engage with the firearm instructor network, many of whom have strong ties to rural communities.

 

ITEM 6 – Update on Firearms legislation
There have been no changes since the previous forum. The Minister of Police is likely to discuss this with Police at some point, but this will not happen until the completion of the Select Committee’s
‘inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms’. One possibility is that Police will produce a public discussion paper before any amendments proceed further, but this will depend on the Minister’s view. A possible legislative change that will proceed before other amendments to the Arms Act relates to introducing Firearm Prohibition Orders. A separate paper on this is being prepared for Government.
Police confirmed that it has not been proposing the formal registration of all firearms that might be in the system. In the past Police has not supported full registration of firearms if it was to try to capture the serial numbers of all firearms currently held by firearm licensees, partly because it would be very impractical to do so. Nevertheless, universal registration remains an idea, and will likely be considered by the Select Committee Inquiry. Recording more serial numbers than is currently the case, does have the potential to assist Police with matching more seized firearms with those lost through theft/burglaries.
Members expressed doubts about the idea of universal registration. There is a general fear, although one with no basis, that full registration will lead to confiscation of firearms. One member argued
that universal registration has not worked in any country and that Police databases are quite inaccurate anyway.
Police confirmed that there is no proposal being finalised with Government to reclassify all semi- automatic weapons as E category. Police is in the process of noting issues and coming up with possible options to present to the Minister.
If there were to be a public discussion paper it would be unusual to consult extensively prior to its release as that would be achieved through a widely available discussion paper that the public is consulted on, where it has a chance to present alternative options.

 

ITEM 7 – Other Business
Members advised that the public wants more information on safes and storage requirements. The firearms community is frustrated with the requirements behind what constitutes a legitimate safe. Some expressed concerns that some safes were deemed legitimate 2-3 years ago, but now fail tests. Police, however, notes that there are no new storage requirements – the same criteria continue to apply. If security standards are not met, then the onus is on the owner to prove that the safe is secure, as approved by a certified engineer. Police must also be satisfied that the engineer inspecting the safe has sufficient knowledge to certify that the safe is adequate. If someone has an issue with a decision relating to a safe, they should discuss the issue with an Arms officer who will contact Police National Headquarters. People can always email Police National Headquarters as well
– Police will do its best to resolve the certification issue. Forum members should expect to hear
more on this in the next few weeks, although this could be longer if an appeals process needs to be ironed out. A checklist for firearm officers and dealers on safe specifications is being prepared in the shorter term.

 

Action point:
Police to send out to the Forum the safe requirements checklist and to advise the Forum of the certification expectations when that exercise is completed.
There is general dissatisfaction with how long it takes to get firearm import permits. Often people are getting lawyers involved because it is a slow and onerous process. There is a sense that Police is very poorly resourced in this area. Police commented that it is in the process of resolving this issue, and that the waiting time has reduced significantly. The remaining permits that have lengthy waiting periods should be processed in the next couple of weeks.
Last year there were some issues with firearms licence renewals, with one person’s licence taking eight months to renew. This issue stemmed from staffing issues within Police and the peak in the applications for renewals. This has now been reduced to normal waiting times.
It was mentioned that there was a rumour that dealers’ fees were about to be substantially increased. Police advised that it is not possible for Police to unilaterally and arbitrarily raise fees associated with getting firearms or dealers’ licences – Police has to demonstrate to Government that increases are based on costs that are necessary and reasonable. It was noted that Police collected
$4,226,946 from fees for firearm licences, which accounted for approximately 50% of Police’s costs
in administering the Arms Act.
The next meeting is scheduled for 8 December 2016, 9:30am – 12:30pm.

 

 

Summary of the Firearms Community Advisory Forum Meeting: Thursday 18 August 2016

1. THE MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING WERE CONFIRMED

2. ACTION POINTS FROM LAST MEETING

a) WILDLIFE (POWERS) AMENDMENT BILL: The Select Committee is currently considering this Bill. The proposed amendments enhance rangers’ ability to detect and investigate offences against the Wildlife Act. No consequential amendment to the Arms Act required. Rangers already have the ability to seize firearms in the course of their duty under the Wildlife Act and the current section 73 of the Arms Act covers the situation.

b) PERMIT DATE RECORDED ON IMPORT PERMITS TO BE DATE OF ISSUE (NOT DATE OF APPLICATION): Police reported that this has been actioned and will now apply to all future applications for import permits.
c) OFFICIAL INFORMATION ACT DATABASE: A Police action point is to record all OIA requests on firearm issues and the response to these on its website. Police will follow the example of other government agencies and redact the names of the requesters. It should be noted that Police deals with far more official information requests than other agencies.

3. CROSS-AGENCY FIREARMS WORKING GROUP UPDATE AND NEXT STEPS: The Working Group is working with Customs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and the Department of Internal Affairs. Customs is reviewing internal processes and the Group is still following up on MFAT and the Department of Internal Affairs. A bulletin was sent to Police staff on 16 August, and the Group seeks input from relevant stakeholders.

The firearms system suffers from a number of clear inefficiencies. In theory, Police believes that better use of technology would benefit both Police and the wider firearms community. The Better Business Case framework will ensure clearer thinking and prevent failure in the future. There are five key sections that have been identified for development in the Firearms Business Case, including strategic, economic, commercial, financial and management cases. Multiple government bodies will be involved, including Police, Treasury and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Police is currently consolidating the strategic case and has completed Investment Logic Mapping workshops, visited Districts to hear from the Firearms team members who provide services, and begun preparing the ground work for the economic case. There will be consultation on the strategic case before it is signed off by a Deputy Commissioner.

Police outlined that $4,226,946 was collected in 2014/15 from firearm licence fees and endorsements, and indicated that fees and costs are being further analysed as a part of the Firearms project. This figure can also be found at http://www.police.govt.nz/sites/default/files/publications/firearms-community-advisory-forum-minutes-may-2016.pdf. Police confirmed that fee transparency is going to be looked at in the project.

4. LAW AND ORDER COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF FIREARMS: On 10, 17 and 24 August, oral submissions on the ‘Inquiry into issues relating to the illegal possession of firearms’ were presented to the Law and Order Committee. Police is currently preparing a Departmental Report based on the issues raised in the written and oral submissions. Common themes from the submissions include improving burglary resolution rates and more frequently noting the serial numbers of firearms. It is unclear when the Committee will report back. A number of submitters fear that Police’s firearms database is vulnerable to being hacked. Police continues to focus on maintaining safe and secure information to minimise the risk of successful hacking. There have also been several comments about Police resourcing of firearm matters. Police acknowledged that the mail order system, required in section 43A of the Arms Act, could be more user friendly. Police will tidy up the mail order system to ensure that it will be run more smoothly.

5. MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL REVIEW: MSC continues to review its programme, which includes engaging with partners and anybody that has a vested interested in firearms. Its main focus remains on educating the firearms community and educating prospective firearm licence holders. MSC has started consulting the rural community. Police is not involved in the review.

6. UPDATE ON FIREARMS LEGISLATION: There have been no changes since the previous forum. The Minister of Police will probably discuss this with Police, but it is unlikely to happen until after the completion of the Select Committee’s ‘Inquiry into issues relating to the illegal possession of firearms’. Firearm Prohibition Orders may potentially proceed before other amendments to the Arms Act. A separate paper on this is being prepared for Government. Police confirmed that it has not been recommending a formal registration of all firearms that might be in the system. However, registration will probably be considered by the Select Committee. There is a general fear within the firearms community that full registration will lead to confiscation of firearms, but this has no basis. Recording more serial numbers may potentially assist Police with matching more seized firearms with those lost in burglaries. Police confirmed that there is no proposal being finalised with Government for the reclassification of all semi-automatic weapons. Police is in the process of noting issues and mooting possible options to present to the Minister.

OTHER BUSINESS:
7. SAFES: Members were advised that the public wants more information on safes and storage requirements. The firearms community is frustrated with the requirements for what constitutes a legitimate safe. Some expressed concerns that some safes were deemed legitimate 2-3 years ago, but now fail tests. Police, however, notes that there are no new storage requirements – the same criteria continue to apply. If security standards are not met, then the onus is on the owner to prove that the safe is secure, as approved by a suitable engineer. If someone has an issue with a decision relating to a safe, they should discuss the issue with an Arms officer who will contact Police National Headquarters. Forum members should expect to hear more on this issue in the next few weeks, although this could be longer if an appeals process needs to be ironed out. A checklist for firearm officers and dealers on safe specifications is being prepared in the shorter term.

8. IMPORT PERMITS: There is general dissatisfaction with how long it takes to get firearm import permits. Often lawyers are getting involved because it is a slow and onerous process. Police commented that it is working to resolve this issue, and that the waiting time has reduced significantly. Remaining permits that have lengthy waiting periods should be processed in the next two weeks.
9. FIREARMS LICENCE RENEWALS: Last year there were some issues with firearm licence renewals, which stemmed from staffing issues within Police and having reached the peak of the ten year bell curve relating to the number of applications received. Delays have now been reduced to normal waiting times.

10. DEALERS FEES: There have been rumours that dealers’ fees will be increased substantially. Police advised that it is not possible for them to unilaterally and arbitrarily raise fees associated with getting firearms or dealers’ licences.

 

Categorised in: