Christchurch terror attack: Jacinda Ardern announces ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the Government will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, in light of the Christchurch terror attack.

"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 on Thursday.

"Cabinet agreed to overhaul the law when it met on Monday, 72 hours after the horrific terrorism act in Christchurch. Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand."

Ardern first floated the idea of tightening gun laws on Saturday, the morning after the attacks, when 50 people were killed by a suspected white supremacist gunman who wielded legally obtained semi-automatic weapons.

"There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change," she said at the time.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Ardern said none of the changes made in the past dealt with one of the most glaring issues that sets New Zealand apart from many other nations: the availability of military-style semi-automatic weapons.

Jacinda Ardern made the announcement alongside Police Minister Stuart Nash.
Jacinda Ardern made the announcement alongside Police Minister Stuart Nash. Photo credit: Getty

"The attacker on 15 March took a significant number of lives using primarily two guns: they were assault rifles, and they were purchased legally on an A Category gun licence - the standard licence held by gun owners in New Zealand.

"I absolutely believe there will be a common view amongst New Zealander - those who use guns for legitimate purposes and those who have never touched one  that the time for the mass availability of these weapons must end."

Ardern said an amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in, and Cabinet has directed officials to develop a buyback scheme. Further details will be announced on the buyback in due course, but she said it could cost $100-$200 million. 

"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."

Purchasing firearms in New Zealand

To purchase a military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) weapon, New Zealanders must obtain an E Category endorsement on their licence and a police issued permit for each item.

The standard is an A Category licence, and semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles are permitted in this category provided they can only hold up to seven rounds, as well as meeting the other criteria. A weapon requires 15 rounds before it becomes MSSA.

The alleged 28-year-old Christchurch gunman took a significant number of lives using primarily two guns, assault rifles, purchased legally on an A Category gun licence - the standard licence held by gun owners in New Zealand.

The capacity of these assault rifles was then enhanced, using 30-plus-round magazines, essentially turning them into military-style semi-automatic weapons, according to the Prime Minister.

While the modification of these guns was illegal, she said it was done easily, through a simple online purchase.

Gun laws in New Zealand are contained in the Arms Act 1983, with amendments passed after the 1992 Aramoana massacre when 13 people were killed in Dunedin in a shooting spree.

New gun measures were introduced after Aramoana, including mandatory 10-year photographic licences and tighter restrictions on MSSA firearms.

In March 2010, New Zealand police tried to have types of semi-automatic firearms available for civilians reclassified as MSSA, also known as assault weapons, to make them more difficult to obtain.

Ardern said the Government is looking to progress the latest amendments to gun legislation under urgency and expects these amendments to the Arms Act to be passed within the next session of Parliament.

Newshub.

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