Christchurch mosque shootings: New Zealand to ban military style weapons

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Thursday March 21, 2019

New Zealand will ban all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following the Christchurch attacks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.

The country’s gun laws have been in the spotlight since 50 people were killed at two mosques last Friday.

Ms Ardern said she expected new legislation to be in place by 11 April, saying: “Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too.”

All of the dead have now been formally identified, police have confirmed.

One man has been charged with one murder. Australian Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, is expected to face further charges.

What will change and how soon?

“Six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” Ms Ardern said.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.”

She said an amnesty and a buy-back scheme would be imposed so the owners of affected weapons could hand them in.

Ms Ardern said the buy-back could cost “anywhere between $100m ($69m; £52m) and $200m. But that is the price that we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities”.

The prime minister has said the killings were a terrorist attack.

The lone gunman, armed with semi-automatic rifles including an AR-15, is believed to have modified his weapons with high-capacity magazines.

The prime minister said measures were already in place to prevent a rush of gun-buying before the law comes in, including a range of semi-automatic weapons being reclassified, making them harder to buy.

“I can assure people, that there is no point in applying for such a permit,” she said.

What did the PM tell gun owners?

Ms Ardern said she knew many gun owners had “acted within the law”.

“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride,” she said.

As with Australia’s gun reforms in 1996 exemptions will be made for farmers legitimately needing weapons for pest control and animal welfare.

Police minister Stuart Nash, also at the announcement, said it was “a privilege and not a right to own a firearm in New Zealand”.

He encouraged gun owners with weapons affected by the ban to phone police to arrange surrendering them.

How will the law be changed?

Ms Ardern said the legislation would be introduced when parliament sits in the first week of April.

There would be a “short, sharp select committee process” for feedback on technical aspects of the law, she said, and changes to the Arms Act should be passed within the next session.

Once the amnesty period ends, anyone in possession of a banned weapon would face a fine of up to NZ$4,000 and three years in jail.

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