SYDNEY – New Zealand Police said on Friday that inquiries have found that correct procedure was followed before issuing the Christchurch mosque shootings suspect with a firearms license.
Questions have been raised about how murder-accused Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, acquired his A-category license and guns.
“Based on the information available to us at this time, we have found that correct process was followed by staff involved in the firearms licence application” filed by the accused in Sept. 2017, a police spokesperson said in a statement.
The alleged shooter provided two referees, both residents of New Zealand, on request after initially listing a family member who did not reside in the country.
“Policy states that a referee must be a resident of New Zealand, therefore new referees were requested,” the statement said.
“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,” it added.
In Oct. 2017, a police firearms vetting officer visited the accused’s residence in the city of Dunedin, around 360 kilometers (220 miles) south of Christchurch.
During the visit, the vetting officer interviewed him and carried out a security inspection.
“Following this, all the available information was reviewed and the licence was approved in November 2017,” the spokesperson added.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at the weekend that the shooter had used five guns, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns.
“A lever-action firearm was also found,” she said, later adding that the guns appeared to have been modified.
On Thursday, Ardern announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, as well as high-capacity magazines and parts that can modify weapons into semi-automatics, which she hopes will be approved by mid-April.
Around 250,000 people in New Zealand have a gun license. To own a rifle or shotgun, people must apply for a standard, category-A license. Those aged 16 and over are eligible to apply and must pass police background checks, a firearms safety course and an interview, among other procedures.
The terror attack on Al Noor and Linwood mosques in the South Island city on March 15 killed 50 people and injured another 50.
The sole suspect is due to appear in court on April 5 charged with one count of murder, although more charges are expected. He has chosen to represent himself.