Australian criminals who are not allowed to buy guns in their own country can just go to New Zealand to get their hands on a weapon. Reports said New Zealand police does not conduct mandatory record checks to people who apply for gun licenses. A pilot programme in 2012 was implemented for Australian and New Zealand authorities to share information but Kiwi police had apparently not use it to screen possible criminals.
The issue emerged in the case of Peter Edwards who was able to obtain a firearms licence in New Zealand despite being convicted of 53 crimes in Australia.
According to reports, Edwards spent $50,000 on shotguns and rifles. He disassembled the weapons and made some modifications before selling the newly-made pistols to gang members.
Speaking from the International Peace Association Conference in Istanbul, University of Otago's Professor Kevin Clements said the case only highlighted an anomaly in New Zealand's gun laws. Clements, the head of Peace and Conflict Studies, said the flaw has created a "big loophole" for criminals to take advantage of. He said the law should be amended to include mandatory background criminal checks.
In a statement, Justice Minister Judith Collins only said a Memorandum of Understanding was still being negotiated with Australian federal police. She refused to comment on the Edwards' case.
The New Zealand police had also declined to give an interview. However, a spokesperson said police were aware of only one of Edwards' convictions in Australian but decided it was "not serious enough" for him to be denied of a gun licence.
Clements warned there could be other Australian criminals with gun licences in New Zealand. He said the licence may increase the risk of convict gun owners to actually commit a crime in the country.
Reports said Edwards had supplied guns to gang members who still continue to be mostly out on the streets.
Paul Clark, a firearms expert and chairman of the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners, said the case of Edwards should be considered serious and urged authorities to look into increasing the penalty for people who supply guns to criminals.