New Zealand passes new gun laws in wake of Christchurch terror attack

Kyodo News

Posted at Apr 10 2019 10:38 PM

New Zealand's Parliament passed on Wednesday tough new gun laws including a ban on most types of semi-automatic weapons, less than a month after a gunman stormed two Christchurch mosques, killing 50 people.

The Arms Amendment Bill was opposed by only one lawmaker when it passed its final reading in the legislature.

Under the amendment, all weapons used by the gunman during two mass shootings on March 15, including military-style semiautomatic guns, will be banned. Parts, magazines and ammunition that can be used to convert a firearm into a semiautomatic will also be banned.

Speaking in Parliament, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recounted the moment she found out many of the weapons used in the incident -- New Zealand's worst-ever terror attack -- were legally bought and sold.

"I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could have been obtained legally in this country," she said.

The prime minister went on to say she could not face the surviving victims of the attack and tell them "hand on heart that our system and our laws allow these guns to be available and that is O.K. Because...it was not."

Accused shooter Brenton Tarrant held an entry-level "Class-A" gun license, which he used to make multiple online purchases of guns and ammunition.

Tarrant is alleged to have made illegal modifications, using high-capacity magazines, effectively turning the weapons into military-style semi-automatics.

The country's new gun laws follow an announcement earlier in the day by Police Minister Stuart Nash that outlines the framework for a gun buyback scheme.

Under the buyback, gun owners will be compensated for surrendering weapons banned under the newly amended laws.

The government initially estimated the buyback would cost up to NZ$200 million ($135 million) however as New Zealand does not require the vast majority of individual firearms to be registered, the exact number of banned weapons is unknown. As a result, the government can only estimate the total cost.

Tarrant has been charged with 50 counts of murder and 39 counts of attempted murder, and is due to next appear in court on June 14.