Any database or registry can be abused. It doesn’t matter if it a database of new born babies or a registry of guns. Unethical and unscrupulous people can and will abuse it especially if it isn’t protected.
The police in New South Wales, Australia maintain a registry of all firearms owned by those with firearms licenses or permits. They also require safe storage of firearms. The firearms registry keeps a record of all firearms registered in NSW, the details about the firearm, the owner, and where the firearm is stored in accordance with the safe storage requirements. This information is kept by the police on their computers and accessible through an intranet.
Imagine what could happen if someone got unauthorized access to this registry. Unfortunately, according to a police whistleblower this isn’t a hypothetical situation. Sgt. David Good of the NSW Police says that the records and locations on over 700,000 firearms was kept on an unsecured server until the end of 2010.
Sgt Good said that he had become concerned for the safety of gun owners when the single-file database, containing gun owner addresses, was moved from a high-security storage system to an unsecure intranet accessed by 16,000 police and civilian staff for at least 18 months to December 2010.
“The information contained within that single database included a schedule of firearms owned, and the storage address for the state’s licenced firearms owners, in the order of 700,000 firearms,” he said in correspondence with senior police that was made available to Sporting Shooter.
“(The database) would be considered an extremely valuable resource to the criminal element, who would no doubt offer lucrative inducements for the corrupt release of same.”
Sgt Good would not speculate on any direct link between gun theft and the unlawful release of gun owner details, however, anecdotal evidence shows that thefts had occurred shortly after police had carried out an audit at a gun storage location.
This has led to speculation that gun owner details are already in criminal hands, and the recent case of a police impersonator demanding to inspect a gun owner’s firearms safe prompted Sgt Good to speak out.
“I have been attempting to have this situation corrected since December 2010,” he said and added that he had been dissatisfied with the level of accountability or even acknowledgement of the situation by NSW Police.
“I want to see that the NSW Police Force is brought to account for creating a very significant risk to licenced firearms owners and the wider community, and this risk would have been avoided through sensible security and practices in regard to the very sensitive nature of the information at risk.”
Sgt. Good goes on to add that the system does not create any audit trail of who accessed it and it doesn’t prevent copying of the database on to mobile devices such as a thumbnail drive. I’m no computer security expert but that seems extremely lax to me.
The media and the gun prohibitionists cry foul when personal data on firearm ownership and concealed carry permits is made non-public. We have already seen the consequences of newspapers publishing lists and maps to pistol owners in New York State. Imagine if those papers had published a list of just what gun was owned by whom, where they stored it, etc. If criminals can take orders for certain models of cars to steal as in the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds”, they can just as easily take orders to steal a Colt 1911 in .38 Super.