Jacinda Ardern on gun law: New Zealand has been 'blueprint' for 'not what to do'

Jacinda Ardern believes other countries should use New Zealand's current gun laws as an example of "not what to do". 

The Prime Minister reiterated on Wednesday that New Zealand's gun laws need to change in the wake of Friday's terrorist attack in Christchurch when 50 people were killed. 

When asked if New Zealand could be a "blueprint" for other countries to follow in how it tackles gun control, Ardern flipped the question and said New Zealand's current gun laws are an example of what not to follow. 

"Many New Zealanders would be astounded to know that you can access military-style semi-automatics in the way that you can here. There are a range of things that need to be fixed," she said in Christchurch. 

"I guess if I was to say New Zealand is a blueprint for anything, in some ways it's a blueprint [for] not what not to do. My hope is that going forward we will demonstrate what you can do if your starting point is similar to ours."

The Prime Minister added: "We do have a road to travel, though, and I'll be announcing further details very soon."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Christchurch.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Christchurch. Photo credit: Getty

The Government has been urged to change New Zealand's weak gun laws following the attack in Christchurch, especially since the alleged attacker, a 28-year-old Australian national, was able to obtain firearms legally. 

Belinda Sellars QC, a top criminal lawyer, said on Tuesday that politics has been in the way of key changes. She also echoed Ardern's sentiment that New Zealand's laws are relatively weak, compared to many other countries.

"Certainly there have been attempts through the years, three in recent times, to change the law and it has been looked at very carefully, but at the end of the day it's not made it through the final hoop, which has been a result of what has been happening in Parliament."

Ardern has questioned the necessity of military-style semi-automatic weapons, and said on Monday her Cabinet was "absolutely unified" around reforming New Zealand's gun laws - and that the decision would be unveiled within 10 days.

Al Gillespie, a Waikato University law professor, said this week that the process of removing firearms from the community, if it happens, is "going to be complicated". 

He said the criminals who possess semi-automatics "will not hand them in, and some lawful owners, may be non-compliant". 

But Ardern shares a different view. She told media on Monday: "I strongly believe that the vast majority of gun owners in New Zealand will agree with the sentiment that change needs to occur."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Tuesday the Government is considering a gun buyback scheme for guns. Gillepsie said the Government will now have to examine whether they want to take the gun buyback "to beyond semi-automatics". 

"That is, there are tens of thousands of 'grey guns' in the NZ community - those which have simply passed from the hands of their original, lawful, owner. And because of no register, no-one knows where they are," he said. 

On the topic of a firearms register, Gillespie said it "will be interesting" given that it could be used to help identify stockpiles of firearms. 

There could be "traceability of firearms and firearm owners can be held responsible for the firearms in their possession", he said.