The Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) is investigating several serious breaches by staff members of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA), including at least one case of a seized firearm being unlawfully removed from the FLA’s vault and returned to the licence holder.
That was among the startling revelations made on Tuesday by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the FLA, Shane Dalling, during a sitting of Parliament’s Internal and External Affairs Committee.
Dalling made the disclosure as he spoke of his efforts to clean up the gun control authority and fix structural weaknesses that have dogged the agency and, over the years, led to widespread corruption and a loss of public trust.
The CEO also told the committee that some 100 firearm licences were issued without due process before he arrived at the FLA in 2017. He said those guns are still in the hands of individuals and, based on FLA checks, the number is growing.
According to Dalling, it was discovered that a firearm was removed from the FLA’s vault and returned it to an individual, after the gun was seized. That individual apparently had a dispute with his wife and his gun was brought into play to abuse the woman.
“We found …incidents of (a wife) reporting abuse by use of the firearm yet we found that the wife’s firearm was taken and not the abuser’s.
“We found where the licence holder was before the Gun Court and the wife spent weeks in hospital from the abuse and the reports that the firearm, although it was taken, was returned to the licence holder by staff members going into the vault and retrieving the firearm on behalf of the licence holder,” Dalling disclosed.
He told the committee that in 2017 when he became CEO, firearm licences were being granted without the applications being subjected to the requisite vetting.
He said a system has since been implemented where a file must be brought to the general administration department for vetting to ensure that the security clearances have been received from the relevant agencies .
What was discovered was that files were being sent to the FLA board for approval without the proper clearances being done.
Dalling said there have been cases where the licences were granted “then the security clearance comes in and there are adverse traces on the individual that was never discovered in the field.
“It then places us in an awkward situation in trying to retrieve that firearm from that person,” said Dalling.
When asked by Committee member Lisa Hanna how many such firearms are in the hands of individuals, Dalling said more than 100 files have so far been uncovered. He said the “number is going up as we go along each day.”