Jacinda Ardern announces semi-automatic weapons ban in wake of Christchurch attacks


New Zealand will ban military-style semi-automatic rifles, the country's prime minister has announced, days after a terror attack on mosques.

New Zealand will urgently ban military-style semi-automatic rifles, with the government announcing a buyback just days after a shooting at two mosques killed 50 people.

The country will also ban assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and certain modification parts, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.

"In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country," she said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses the media on Thursday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses the media on Thursday.

"We are confident as a government that the vast majority of New Zealanders will support this change."

The ban is expected to be in place by April 11, Ms Ardern said. 

It comes as New Zealand police announced that all 50 victims of last week's terror attack in Christchurch had now been identified, allowing burials to take place.


"The identification process and to all 50 victims has been completed and all of the next of kin have been  advised," said commissioner Mike Bush on Thursday. "That is a landmark for this process."

An amnesty is to be put in place for the weapons to be handed in, with a buyback scheme to be announced soon, at an estimated cost of $NZ100 million to $NZ200 million.

The government has also immediately implemented a stop-over measure that will keep the weapons from being sold and stockpiled until the new laws can be implemented, Ms Ardern said.

Asked about the people who illegally hold military-style semi-automatic, she said, "we just want the guns back".

A memorial for Christchurch victims.
A memorial for Christchurch victims.

To "the current owners of the weapons we have moved to ban, I acknowledge that many of you will have acted within the law," Ms Ardern said. 

"In recognition of that and to incentivise their return, we will be establishing a buyback scheme."

Anyone who keeps the guns after an amnesty period will face fines of up to $4,000 and three years' in jail.

US urged to follow NZ's lead

 "This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like," Democratic US Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders tweeted.

"We must follow New Zealand's lead, take on the NRA (National Rifle Association) and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States."

High-profile Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez contrasted the swift ban with US failure to enact even modest controls following recurring deadly shootings such as the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, in which 20 children and six school staff died.  

"Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can't even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

"Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market. This is what leadership looks like."

No reaction was immediately seen on the Twitter feed of US President Donald Trump. 

Firearms in New Zealand

New Zealand's government will next week also consider tightening licensing rules and ammo restrictions. A gun register is also being mulled.

Concerns have been raised about the availability of military-style semi-automatic rifles after the man charged over last week's attack used two of the weapons, legally bought with a licence, in the attack.

There are an estimated 1.5 million firearms in New Zealand - roughly one for every three citizens and more than double the rate in Australia.

Farming lobby group Federated Farmers said it backed the decision.

“This will not be popular among some of our members," security spokesperson Miles Anderson said.

“But after a week of intense debate, we believe this is the only practicable solution.”

“Christchurch, Friday, March 15 has changed everything”

Under the old law pest control was legally considered a reason to own a military-style semi-automatic weapon and there were no restrictions on the number of guns or ammunition a person could own.

New Zealand's leader of the opposition, Simon Bridges, welcomed the changes.

"We agree that the public doesn’t need access to military style semi-automatic weapons. National supports them being banned along with assault rifles," he said.

A petition signed by 65,000 people calling for a ban on semi-automatic weapons was delivered to New Zealand's parliament earlier in the day.

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were gunned down.

Ms Ardern said that similar to Australia, the new gun laws will allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers to conduct pest control and animal welfare.

"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."

Additional reporting: AFP, Reuters

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