30 March 2018
Dear Mr Andrew,
Congratulations on your election as a One Nation member to Queensland’s Parliament. This week, surrendered firearms reportedly were discovered at the home of a Queensland Police Service employee. Reportedly, the man had shot himself in the hand and upon calling an ambulance, some misappropriated QPS firearms were discovered. It took a self-shooting to reveal a systemic problem in QPS security that we warned about in July last year, just as the much-vaunted 2017 firearms amnesty was starting.
LAFO raises QPS firearms security with QPS last year
On 17 July 2017, we wrote to QPS about their internal security procedures for seized or surrendered firearms and the history of this firearms “walking out the back door” (read it here). Inspector Smith of the Firearms Amnesty Project (FAP) team replied two days later (read our post here):
To address your concerns I wish to advise the Queensland Police Service have appropriate procedures and safeguards in place regarding the management of all items coming into the possession of police and therefore, the community can have full confidence that any items surrendered will be actioned accordingly.
In other words, the security of QPS firearms handling was squarely raised with QPS and the answer was that we should move along because there was, as the saying goes, nothing to see here.
QPS: “We will conduct an audit. That’ll fix it!”
QPS have already tried to defuse this issue by announcing an audit of all QPS firearms. That’s a band aid. Audits and band aids don’t solve cultural problems. QPS has a cultural problem on firearms regulation. We’ve been consistently warning about it. Many of these cultural problems trace their origin to Weapons Licensing Branch.
Weapons Licensing Branch and the amazing $10m licensing system
Weapons Licensing Branch has an amazing $10m licensing system. You can see the QPS journal entries for it under documents released (here) under RTI. Queensland also expends over $7m/year in operating expenses on Weapons Licensing Branch and this doesn’t include the cost of ‘random’ QPS inspections of the State’s 190,000 licensed shooters.
However, in January 2018, the Weapons Licensing system couldn’t even produce accurate monthly reports about the number of licensed firearms and license holders. A LAFO volunteer specifically requested these figures and was told over the phone by the QPS RTI Unit “the figures the system is producing for January are known to be inaccurate and Weapons Licensing would be unhappy if you pursue your request for this information to be released.” Fortunately under Queensland’s Right To Information Act it doesn’t matter if public officials are embarrassed by their own inaccurate recordkeeping. The documents have been released on the QPS disclosure log (here) and are now forever watermarked:
THE FIGURES IN THIS REPORT ARE NOT ACCURATE
It’s the toxic culture, not the toxic software
QPS’ problems with firearms regulation do not stop with a software system. Their problems are cultural, particularly in Weapons Licensing.
Disrespectful to industry: Internal culture explains why their senior police members send the whole group of Weapons Licensing senior police sarcastic emails about ‘respecting’ dealers (see here).
Against suppressors: This also explains why Weapons Licensing Branch would prefer the frequent car accidents with deer in the Brisbane City Council area to the alternative of allowing Brisbane City Council to have suppressors (as BCC has repeatedly requested an exemption for) to cull the problem deer (read here).
No helpful public guidance: This also explains why Weapons Licensing Branch insist on license holders getting armourer’s certificates for magazine modifications (read here).
Appalling service: In mid-January 2018, Weapons Licensing page on QPS’ website featured this remarkable boast:
Please note there have been unforeseen delays in the printing of licence cards with issue dates from the 23rd of November 2017 onwards. These have now been printed. However due to delays with postal services these are not expected to be received until after the holiday period.
An unsafe and insecure firearms registry: Many months ago, LAFO volunteers applied for information about firearms registry security risks. Documents were identified by QPS as being relevant. After some dispute, Queensland’s Information Commissioner has declined to release the documents but found:
On the material available to me, I am satisfied that the prejudice does arise, insofar as the disclosure of information about a vulnerability of one or more of the records or registers, and the manner in which is was rectified, could permit wider identification and exploitation of that vulnerability. That is, disclosure could reasonably be expected to permit attempts by persons to either subvert the particular remedy, to develop other means of exploiting the identified vulnerability, or to assess whether similar vulnerabilities might stand to be identified and exploited…
In February 2018 we wrote to Queensland Audit Office and to the Ombudsman (here) about the safety of firearms registry information from leaks, but we await any sort of response from them.
Accountability can cure culture
We write to ask you to raise one or more of these issues in Parliament and begin the process of bringing public scrutiny and accountability to bear on a toxic culture that denies, hides and minimises real issues that affect public safety. LAFO will offer you original documents or material that could assist, because starting a clean-up of toxic bureaucratic culture is the number one improvement that all 190,000 Queensland licensed, law-abiding shooters can benefit form.