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Just a week after police in Hamilton and Auckland had to face off against armed offenders in two separate incidents that left one dead, the ease with which criminals can obtain deadly weapons has been exposed in a single court document.
Across an eight-page summary of facts for Gordon McRae, it details how the Taupō methamphetamine dealer was able to sidestep gun laws to supply firearms to the criminal underworld.
McRae, 34, who has pleaded guilty to a raft of gun and drugs charges including supplying firearms to unlicensed persons, possession of a pistol, conspiring to possess a firearm and supply of methamphetamine, used a stunningly simple trick.
He persuaded people who hold gun licences to purchase the firearms and hand them to him. He then on-sold them.
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The police summary of facts revealed they became aware of McRae’s activities back in December 2020, launching Operation Venom with a successful application to the High Court for surveillance of McRae using tracking devices, and interception of his private communications.
“The information obtained revealed that the defendant was also involved in the sale and supply of methamphetamine,” the summary said.
“The defendant used his relationship with two associates who held their own firearm licences and convinced them to purchase firearms on his behalf.
“The firearms that were acquired by the defendant were subsequently on sold on the black market and are now in the hands of unlicensed individuals involved in the criminal environment.
On one occasion in September 2020 a licence-holding associate visited Hamilton’s Gun City, spending $8977.99 cash to acquire five firearms and 1200 rounds of ammunition.
Those firearms were then handed over to McRae, who then on-sold them for cash or as part payment for ounces of methamphetamine to other non-licensed people involved in the criminal environment.
The defendant reassured his customers that the firearms were ‘brand new’ and that they did not have to worry about what the firearms might have been used for previously.
The summary also included details of negotiations between McRae and a Rotorua-based Killer Beez gang member, with McRae offering to exchange a pistol and $3000 for an ounce of methamphetamine.
The gang member ended up rejecting the offer, however, because by his calculations he and the gang would have lost on the deal by $1200.
On December 5 last year, McRae was able to exploit another associate’s addiction to methamphetamine to get him to acquire firearms on his behalf from Gun City in Auckland. He bought a shotgun, long barrelled revolver rifle and placed an order for five further firearms.
However, after police intervention, Gun City told McRae’s associate the ordered firearms could not now be supplied.
“This prompted a call between the defendant and [the associate] as to whether the police were investigating them or whether another associate of the defendant has contacted Gun City in an attempt to ‘f... him up’”.
“The defendant vowed revenge on this unknown person.”
The summary also revealed the impact the Covid-19 restrictions had on the importation of methamphetamine into New Zealand, especially during the middle part of 2020.
This led to a decrease in supply and thus an increase in price.
On February 10 this year police executed a search warrant at McRae’s address finding empty methamphetamine dealing bags, $1850 in cash, ‘cutting’ agents for methamphetamine and a blank-firing pistol in his vehicle.
McRae initially told police he had played no role in the purchase of the Auckland firearms, but that he had provided just under $1000 to one associate to acquire a shotgun and rifle.
He also explained his methamphetamine dealing was due to his own addiction to the drug, claiming to personally smoke around half a gram most days.
“He stated he was constantly trying to facilitate deals in the hope of being able to skim some methamphetamine from the top of each sale to maintain his own habit and repay his debts,” the summary said.
“He did not regard himself as a ‘drug dealer’ per se.”
The summary also noted that at the time of writing, “none of these firearms have been recovered”.
McRae is set to be sentenced at Rotorua District Court in August.
Criminals get their firearms from licensed owners
New Zealand Police Association President Chris Cahill said McRae’s offending came as no surprise to him, as “criminals get their guns from licensed owners”.
“This is exactly the sort of thing we said can go on while there is no gun register,” he said.
Cahill said that at present gun shops were under no obligation to report sales, and police had no way of knowing who owned what, or how many, firearms.
“It’s why we’re seeing all these firearms offences happening, because criminals are getting their hands on these weapons.”
He said a gun register would also allow police to check on unusual purchases – such as when McRae and an associate spent nearly $9000 in cash to acquire five firearms and 1200 rounds of ammunition in one visit.
“If that’s not unusual that points to the problems we have in New Zealand.”
Cahill said that while under current laws, the gun shops visited by McRae and associates had done nothing illegal, “morally they have a duty to say this is unusual”.
“People said criminals won’t register their firearms, no they won’t, but it’ll stop them getting them in the first place.”
He also said a register would further incentivise responsible gun owners to take greater care around security for their firearms.
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