By: Ashleigh Meyer

Due to a software mishap, the private and allegedly secure information of gun owners participating in New Zealand’s weapons buyback program became accessible to visitors of a government website built for the surrendering of recently illegal weapons. According to Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement, a weapons dealer alerted the police to the privacy breech after logging into the site and discovering the private information.

After the tragic Christchurch Massacre in March of this year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quickly pushed through legislation that banned the ownership of so called “military-style” semi-automatic weapons and set aside a large fund to buy back such firearms. Since the buyback program was initiated in July, some 10,000 weapons have been surrendered – out of an estimated 1.5 million total in the country.

Concerned that some individuals would not want to surrender their weapons directly to the police, weapons dealers have been authorized to collect the surrendered guns on behalf of law enforcement, and thus had access to the website built for managing the buyback scheme. Being blamed for the breech is the German software provider, SAP, who initiated an unauthorized online update for the website. The private information made public to these weapons dealers as a result included the names, addresses, banking information, and firearms license numbers of an unknown number of gun owners.

Though police have stated that the program will continue, the breech has many deeply concerned for the safety and security of the program. Nicole McKee of the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners is among those concerned, calling the program a “shopping list for criminals.” McKee also pointed out that gun owners are now being forced to “comply with a system that cannot be trusted.”

New Zealanders have until December 20 to hand in their banned weapons, at which point a person caught with a banned firearm, or even a part of a banned firearm, could be facing a prison sentence of up to five years.

Ashleigh Meyer is a professional writer, and conservative political analyst from Virginia.