Gun owners have five years to register their weapons and significant arms parts. Photo / Andrew Warner
A 72-year-old gun owner says he “saw red” while trying – and failing – to navigate the new online firearm registration system, with a hunting club saying even “tech savvy” members are finding it “painful”.
The registry came into effect a month ago and the newly created Firearms Safety Authority Te Tari Pūreke says it has had positive feedback from online users and 95 per cent of licence holders who started the online process finished it without needing to call its 0800 number for help.
It comes after the authority faced criticism about the security of registry information – a key concern of licence holders when it was being set up – after staff emailed 147 Auckland gun owners with recipient details including email addresses and many names visible in the CC field on Wednesday.
The authority apologised and said the privacy breach was due to human error, and said it would strengthen its systems to prevent a repeat.
The registry followed major changes to firearms laws after the 2019 terrorist attacks on Christchurch mosques.
Firearms licence holders now have five years to record all their relevant weapons with details such as the make, model, type, calibre and serial number, as well as a photo. Businesses have two years to comply.
A Bay of Plenty 72-year-old, who spoke on the condition he wasn’t named due to concerns about being targeted by thieves, said he had difficulty navigating the MyFirearms website as an older person.
He had owned rifles since he was 17, mainly for hunting possums and rabbits, and currently had two — a .22 semi-automatic and a vintage ex-army Parker-Hale 305.
He said he had particularly struggled with setting up a RealMe login – a government service used to prove your identity online and securely access services including the MyFirearms website.
He said it would not recognise his phone number and he could not proceed to the next stage.
“I saw red. I thought, this is just crazy,” the man said.
After another two attempts online and a call to the registry’s helpline, he got it sorted.
While he said he was proud to now be able to show his friends and relatives how to do it, he still believed the registration system was too hard and there needed to be another option.
“[We] should be able to go into the police station and register over the counter.”
He said that was what he did for his firearms licence.
New Zealand Deer Stalkers Bay of Plenty Branch president Reuben Hayward said he believed the registration system was flawed.
The club had more than 650 members and Hayward said he knew of two of those considered “tech savvy” who had struggled to register their firearms, with the process appearing to be “really painful and drawn out” for them.
Hayward believed a deer hunter with only a small number of firearms may find the process straightforward but it could be a “big challenge” and time-consuming for those into competition game hunting, collecting firearms or those with old firearms, due to the number of details required to register each item.
Hayward had not registered his personal firearms when he spoke to NZME but said he would do so soon.
NZME also spoke to two firearm sellers about the online registration system.
A gun store owner in Rotorua described it as “not user-friendly” but said the helpline staff were good when he was registering stock. A store manager in the Bay of Plenty found the process straightforward but believed it may be difficult for those who are not familiar with using online technology.
A Te Tari Pūreke spokesperson said via police it had a lot of positive anecdotal feedback about the system and more than 4000 licence holders had registered their firearms, averaging about 4.3 per person. It noted people did not have to register all their guns in one session.
Regarding the RealMe login, it said feedback from users when it was setting up the registry included concerns about the security of the information it would hold.
“The RealMe authentication is an important information security step that ensures only the licence holder is able to access their individual information.”
A free phone line was available to people having trouble using the digital platform for a number of reasons, including using RealMe or finding a match in the Firearms Reference Table.
The database had 4892 unique makes, 28,308 unique models and 4535 unique manufacturers of firearms, with more due to be added in August.
The spokesperson said part of being considered “fit and proper” to maintain a firearms licence was complying with all obligations in arms legislation, including under the Firearms Registry regulations.
Failing to provide required information to the Firearms Registry without reasonable excuse was an offence punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.
It was an offence to intentionally fail to provide information or knowingly provide false or misleading information and is punishable by a fine of up to $20,000 or up to two years in prison.
In the gun
From June 24, all firearms licence holders are required to register arms items in their possession, including:
- non-prohibited firearms, including Specially Dangerous Airguns (PCPs)
- prohibited firearms and magazines
- restricted weapons
- major parts
- pistol carbine conversion kits.
Note: Firearms that do not work still need to be registered. You do not need to register antique firearms or airguns.
Source: Firearms Safety Authority
Michaela Pointon is an NZME reporter based in the Bay of Plenty and was formerly a feature writer.