Hundreds of gun licences granted in New Zealand despite convictions in Australia

Hundreds of gun licences were granted in New Zealand over the last decade despite those people having criminal convictions in Australia, a report says.

More than 600 people with criminal convictions in Australia were granted gun licences in New Zealand, of which 37 went on to commit gun crimes, including two homicides, RNZ reports.

Those convictions would have been considered in the vetting process, but they were often minor "and/or may have happened some years ago", acting superintendent Mike McIlraith told RNZ.

He said the vetting process for gun licence applications includes "interviewing the applicant and a family referee, usually the spouse, as well as an interview with an [independent] person who knows the applicant well".

National's Police spokesperson Brett Hudson said it raises "serious questions about how fit for purpose police processes are".

"This is no small matter. Of those 639 people with convictions who were granted licences, 37 went on to commit firearms-related crimes, including two homicides," he said.

Police Minister Stuart Nash has said New Zealand's firearms licencing system "clearly needs tightening".

He's said that's the intention of the second phase of the gun law reforms which will be introduced to Parliament later in the year.

"The first phase was designed to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation, with the ban on assault rifles and military style semi-automatics.

"The second phase is aimed at stopping firearms falling into the wrong hands."

An officer inspects a gun as part of a demonstration for media during a gun buyback collection event in Wellington.
An officer inspects a gun as part of a demonstration for media during a gun buyback collection event in Wellington. Photo credit: Getty

The revelation comes as police reassure the public they can safely manage the gun buyback scheme despite two "embarrassing" bungles.

In one incident this week, police admitted that two out of 11 firearms they said had been stolen from the Palmerston North police station were never actually missing.

Meanwhile in Auckland, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) announced there had been multiple failings by two Auckland arms officers over a man's firearms who police couldn't locate after he surrendered them.

Even after an investigation by the IPCA, the missing guns haven't been located. It's understood police agreed to compensate the man for the missing guns.

Hudson said in the wake of the recent reports around the handling of firearms stored on police premises, they need to "demonstrate to the public that its procedures and process are implemented consistently across the force and across the country".

Last week police held a dummy run of a mass collection event in Wellington where they showcased the machine that will crush guns handed in for the buyback.

Minister Nash revealed at the demonstration that around 8000 firearms had been declared for surrender so far, about 5000 of which will be part of the Government's buyback.

The rest are either illegally held by people without firearms licences or guns that weren't even banned. Owners have flagged they'll hand them over as part of the amnesty which ends December 20.

Police said this week they are confident they can manage the gun buyback scheme and say work is already underway to improve the stations where security was lacking.

ACT leader David Seymour said he predicts that thousands of people attempting to hand in their firearms at once "will lead to more embarrassing incidents" for police.

"The 'large public events' will make great TV, befitting of a Government-run like a PR firm, but they are poor policy."

Details of how the gun buyback will work can be found here.