New Zealand will ban military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday, following the mass shootings last week in two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people.
“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 told a news conference, Reuters reports.
“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.”
Ardern said she expects the new laws to be in place by April 11 and that a buy-back scheme will be established for banned weapons.
The buyback would cost up to NZ$200 million (US$138 million), she said.
All military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles would be banned, along with parts used to convert weapons into MSSAs and all high-capacity magazines.
Under existing New Zealand gun laws, A-category weapons can be semi-automatic but limited to seven shots.
Live-streamed video of a gunman in one of the mosque shootings last Friday showed a semi-automatic weapon with a large magazine.
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.
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.”
New Zealand, a country of less than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5 million firearms, around 13,500 of them MSSA type weapons.
Most farmers in the Pacific country own guns, which they use for killing pests such as possums and rabbits, and for putting down injured stock.
Recreational hunting of deer, pigs and goats is popular for sport and food, while gun clubs and shooting ranges dot the country.
That has created a powerful lobby which has thwarted previously attempts to tighten gun laws, Reuters noted.
Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supports the government’s new move.
“This will not be popular among some of our members but…we believe this is the only practicable solution,” Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesman Miles Anderson said in a statement.
The changes exclude two general classes of firearms which are commonly used for hunting, pest control, stock management on farms, and duck shooting.
Ardern said the next tranche of reforms will cover the firearm registry and licensing.
– Contact us at [email protected]