Less than a week after a white nationalist killed 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand has banned assault and semiautomatic weapons. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced that the sale of high-capacity magazines and items like bump stocks — which manipulate recoil to allow semiautomatics to fire more like automatics — will also be made illegal. According to reporter Andrew Beatty, the measures will be implemented “virtually immediately.”
To remove weapons from public access, Ardern announced a gun buyback program for military-style semiautomatic weapons (MSSAs) similar to the successful plan implemented in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. She announced that MSSA owners will receive “fair and reasonable compensation” for weapons purchased legally.
At the moment, the government has not set a number for its buyback budget, as it is unclear just how many MSSAs there are in the country. (As of last year, there were around 15,000.) “It’s part of the problem,” says Minister of Police Stuart Nash. “The prime minister gave a figure for the buyback [$100–$200 million], the reason there’s such a large gap is we have no idea. We have an indicative set of numbers around MSSAs.”
Ardern announced that Thursday’s action will be the “first tranche” of gun reform in New Zealand. “What we’ve done here is taken out the guns out of circulation that are most critical to be addressed urgently and that’s what we’ve announced, with essentially almost immediate effect,” she said. Round two will “look at issues around licensing, issues around registration, issues around storage,” Adern added. Her cabinet will receive a paper on such issues on Monday and Adern “expect[s] decisions to be made from there.” According to the Guardian, the cabinet will take a look at other measures, including:
· Tightening firearms licensing and penalties
· Imposing greater controls over a range of ammunition
· Addressing a number of other issues relevant to special interest groups such as international sports shooters and professional pest controllers, such as DoC.
· Future proofing the Arms Act [New Zealand’s legislation on gun registration] to ensure it is able to respond to developments in technology and society.
The morning after the massacre, Ardern promised reform. “I can tell you one thing right now: Our gun laws will change,” Ardern said. “Now is the time for change.” As of last year, some 15,000 of New Zealand’s 1.5 million firearms were military-style semiautomatic rifles. The minimum age to own a gun is 16, but for semiautomatics, New Zealanders must be at least 18. In the attack last week, the Christchurch shooter used two semiautomatic rifles, which he purchased legally online.
This post has been updated.