The Christchurch mosque gunman was wrongly given a firearms licence after police mistakes in the vetting process, it's been claimed.
The 29-year-old Australian terrorist applied for a firearms licence in September 2017 just weeks after moving to New Zealand and taking up residence in Dunedin, police have confirmed.
However, sources have told the Herald that his application should never have been granted because he was unable to supply proper referees.
Police processes call for vetting staff to interview two referees supplied by the applicant – a next of kin and a second unrelated person who knows them well.
However, it's understood that no family member was ever spoken to by police over the application.
Stuff reports the only referees interviewed by a police vetter were a father and son from Cambridge who knew the man through an internet chatroom.
Police sources have said the application should never have been granted - saying that police firearms application teams were swamped at the time and under pressure.
In November, a licensed firearms dealer told the finance and expenditure committee considering the Government's second tranche of gun law reform he also raised concerns over the vetting process.
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"[At] this time, he has no family, no partner, no job, no footprint in the community, yet he was vetted as being fit and proper and obviously given a full licence which allowed him to arm himself," Paul McNeill said.
Just days after the March 15 attack where the heavily-armed gunman slaughtered 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, police issued a statement saying early inquiries suggested staff had followed correct process during the shooter's firearms licence application.
They confirmed that the gunman had filed an application for a firearms licence in September 2017 in Dunedin.
The vetting process was undertaken by a police firearms vetting officer in Dunedin where the killer lived.
He initially listed a family member as one of his referees but they did not reside in New Zealand.
Policy states that a referee must be a resident of New Zealand, therefore new referees were requested.
"The accused provided two further referees who met the requirements of the process and were interviewed face to face by a police firearms vetting officer," the police statement said.
One of the steps to gaining a firearms licence is a home visit to meet the applicant in person and inspect the security of their property.
In October 2017, the terrorist was interviewed at his home address in Dunedin. A security inspection took place at the same time.
"Following this, all the available information was reviewed and the licence was approved in November 2017," police said.
The shooter was issued with a 10-year firearms licence, which would have expired on September 8, 2027.
The royal commission will report back on July 31.
Further changes to firearms legislation are being signalled by Police Minister Stuart Nash as debate resumes in Parliament today on the Arms Legislation Bill.
It is the second set of reforms to gun laws after last year's ban on assault rifles and military style semi-automatics in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.
Nash says the bill creates a register to better track firearms in the community and would bring in tougher penalties for gun crime and tighter licensing rules.
"The changes have one objective: to prevent firearms falling into the wrong hands and to restrict gun ownership to responsible licensed people," he said.