CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — All military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines will be banned in New Zealand following the mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday.
“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Ardern said at a press conference in the New Zealand capital Wellington.
The announcement came after the country’s cabinet agreed to overhaul the law and ban military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles 72 hours after the Christchurch attacks.
“Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terror attack on Friday will be banned,” Ardern continued, addiing that she hoped the law would be in place by April 11. “This legislation will be drafted and introduced in urgency,” she said.
New Zealand lawmakers have directed officials to develop a buyback scheme. An amnesty would be put in place for the weapons, Ardern said, adding that details on the buyback would be announced “in due course.”
“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.
The Australian model
Ardern pointed to similar measures taken in Australia following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre as an example for New Zealand to follow, including certain “exemptions for farmers.”
Police Minister Stuart Nash said the bill would include “narrow exemptions” for the police and the defense forces, as well as “legitimate business uses” such as professional pest control.
“Some guns serve legitimate purposes in our farming communities,” he added, noting that exemptions had been made for 0.22-caliber rifles and shotguns used for duck hunting.
Immediate action would be taken to prevent people from stockpiling weapons ahead of the change in law and to encourage gun owners to surrender their weapons, he said.
After Australia implemented a similar ban, the country destroyed more than a million weapons, and additional gun buybacks and amnesties have been conducted since. Last year, more than 57,000 weapons were handed in, including a rocket launcher and a World War II machine gun.
In the wake of the reforms, mass shootings in Australia dropped to zero, gun suicides declined by an average of 4.8% per year, and gun-related homicides declined by an average of 5.5% per year.
Gun controls welcomed
There has been a groundswell of support for tougher legislation on guns following the Christchurch terrorist attack. Nearly 70,000 New Zealanders have signed petitions calling for gun control reform, according to TVNZ. On Thursday, crowds gathered outside parliament in Wellington to deliver those petitions to lawmakers from across the political divide.
New Zealand’s Police Association welcomed the planned law changes, congratulating the government for “demonstrating the courage to take decisive action and ban the firearms that have inflicted so much harm in New Zealand.”
“I hope that the moves immediately attract cross-party support because it is important for New Zealanders to know that their political leaders are all on board with this extremely important move,” Association president Chris Cahill said in a statement.
Lobby group Federated Farmers issued a statement backing tougher gun laws but acknowledged that many of its members would not support its decision.
“This will not be popular among some of our members but after a week of intense debate and careful consideration by our elected representatives and staff, we believe this is the only practicable solution,” Feds Rural Security spokesperson Miles Anderson said.
“We are trying to tread a responsible path. The wrong guns can’t be allowed to get into the wrong hands.”