Terror in Chch

Select committee stream cut after ChCh gunman claims

The livestream of a parliamentary hearing on the proposed second tranche of gun reforms was cut short when a submitter alleged he sold ammunition to the accused Christchurch gunman

A submitter to the select committee reviewing the Government's second tranche of gun law reforms was cut off by committee chair Deborah Russell on Friday after he alleged he sold ammunition to the accused Christchurch gunman.

Paul McNeill operates the Aoraki Ammunition Company, which sells firearms ammunition around the country. In written submissions to the select committee during its first tranche of reforms in April and the second tranche in November, as well as a live-streamed appearance before the committee, McNeill said he sold ammunition to the alleged gunman in November 2017.

One minute into his Friday appearance before the committee, McNeill was cut off by Russell. "Sorry, can we just call you to order for a moment?" she asked, according to footage of the livestream that McNeill posted on Facebook.

"I'm not sure - this is going out publicly - I'm not sure we should be hearing this," Labour MP Greg O'Connor then said.

Russell and McNeill argued briefly before the livestream was cut off. "Can you just stop the stream?" she asked committee staffers. "Mr McNeill, I'll get back to you, but I can't have you interrupting this."

McNeill said that he was later able to finish his submission privately. He said he didn't see it as an issue of censorship. "I don't know if I'm being censored. You'd have to ask [the select committee] if it's censorship. I don't have any personal views about it one way or another, I'm just trying to get my views across," he told Newsroom.

Statement could affect trial - Russell

Russell said once McNeill began speaking, the committee became concerned the information could affect the trial, or the Royal Commission. “I absolutely don’t want to suppress a submission or anything silly like that. We just want to check we’re not making problems for the court case or the Royal Commission.”

Russell said once they realised there could be legal issues, they stopped the livestream and removed the video from the committee’s Facebook page. They also removed McNeill’s written submission from the Parliament website.

After seeking advice from the Clerk of the House, the committee heard the submission in private.

“There’s no intention to suppress the submission or anything like that. It’s just being careful around the legalities.”

Russell said she saw this as a temporary measure, and committee members would get more extensive legal advice when they met again on Wednesday.

McNell said he brought up the sale because it required police authorisation to complete. A document he presented during his appearance purportedly shows the police authorised the sale of 2320 rounds of ammunition to a man with the same name as the alleged Christchurch gunman. 

The buyer notes down the two weapons he plans to use the ammunition with, a Norinco SKS carbine and an AR-15-style weapon. McNeill said that this is required on all mail orders of ammunition, including online purchases, and is kept by police.

"The police have been working on an unofficial arms registry for two to three years now. It's well known they've been doing that.

"That was why I was bringing up the mail order form. Basically, to point out the fallacy of thinking that by registering firearms you prevent crime," he said.

McNeill also said the form states that the purchaser had a ten-year firearms license that would expire in September 2027, indicating that the license was obtained in September 2017 - earlier than previously thought.

Video spreads on social media

Russell said committee had made no attempts to have the video, now circulating on social media, removed. It had not contacted any social media companies, or sought any additional advice.

“I don’t see that’s a problem. Social media is what it is. There’s nothing much we can do about that," she said.

If McNeill wanted to share his information through other means, that was his prerogative.

Despite McNeill having sent the committee a written submission, which contained much of the same information relating to the alleged gunman, Russell said she did not know what he was going to say.

She said she had skimmed his written submission, and was not aware an earlier written submission, with Christchurch-specific information, remained on the Parliament website.

The committee was hearing oral submissions from 500 people – everyone who wanted to be heard.

“The whole process has been quite tricky, with people coming in and saying stuff. But our job is to hear it, and we do hear it. And try to be as polite as possible to everyone, even when they say the most outrageous things,” Russell said.

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