Assault rifles to be banned in New Zealand in aftermath of massacre, Prime Minister announces

Shannon Martinez, Program Manager at the Free Radicals Project, speaks with News Stream in the wake of the Christchurch massacre allegedly at the hands of a white supremacist.

Posted: Mar 26, 2019 9:30 AM
Updated: Mar 26, 2019 9:30 AM

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 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, adding that she hoped the law would be in place by April 11. "This legislation will be drafted and introduced in urgency."

An estimated 1.2 million guns are in circulation in the country, according to New Zealand Police -- one for every three people. Ardern said the buyback scheme could cost between $100 million to $200 million.

Later on Thursday, New Zealand Police announced all 50 bodies from the shootings had been identified. "This means that all victims are now able to be released to their families," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said in a statement.

Arden said a "nationwide reflection" for the dead would be held on Friday -- one week after the attack.

Amnesty for gun returns

The gun reform proposal will be introduced to Parliament in the first week of April. For it to come into effect, lawmakers need to vote on amending the existing legislation, the Arms Act 1983.

In the interim, New Zealand Governor General Patsy Reddy has signed an order to reclassify some semi-automatic weapons as "military-style".

As a result, many people who legally owned certain firearms will no longer be able to possess them on their existing license conditions.

An amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in from Thursday. Cabinet has directed officials to develop a buyback scheme, and Ardern said that further details would be announced "in due course."

Bush said gun drops would be set up at police stations so citizens could safely hand in guns.

"I can't emphasize enough that in the current environment it is important you do not take your now-unlawful firearm anywhere without notifying police," Bush said. "It is absolutely vital that we manage the safe and organized transport of all firearms into police custody."

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 .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.

Philip Alpers, founding director of GunPolicy.org and a University of Sydney academic, said the buyback "has a good chance of delivering the same life-saving public health benefit as that which followed the 1996 Australian buyback."

Gun controls welcomed

There had been a groundswell of support for tougher legislation, with almost 70,000 New Zealanders signing 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."

Opposition leader Simon Bridges said his National party supported the proposed changes.

"The terrorist attack in Christchurch last week has changed us as a nation," the party said in a statement. "National has been clear since this devastating attack that we support changes to our regime and that we will work constructively with the government."

The country's Council of Licensed Firearms Owners said in a Facebook post to members that it will "consider these implications and make a statement very soon," adding that it is working "incredibly hard to understand and manage this set of circumstances."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 295357

Reported Deaths: 5305
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion40796844
Lake25864448
Allen17025289
Elkhart16389209
St. Joseph16125217
Hamilton12225163
Vanderburgh9218112
Tippecanoe807627
Porter770176
Johnson5971161
Hendricks5719154
Vigo563274
Monroe519846
Clark486774
Delaware4721103
Madison4651119
Kosciusko437339
LaPorte436792
Howard321375
Warrick309072
Floyd301177
Bartholomew296262
Wayne292261
Cass291231
Marshall283642
Grant254147
Noble244246
Hancock238949
Henry234136
Boone231754
Dubois229230
Dearborn204629
Jackson200033
Morgan196043
Gibson171622
Knox170715
Clinton170420
Shelby170453
Lawrence169246
DeKalb168428
Adams160019
Miami150414
Daviess149143
Wabash148118
Fayette141233
Steuben139713
LaGrange135127
Jasper134911
Harrison134624
Montgomery127926
Whitley127410
Ripley121414
Decatur119842
Posey116613
Putnam115626
Wells115427
Huntington115210
White115221
Randolph114619
Clay111821
Jefferson110314
Scott97918
Greene97553
Jay93012
Starke87021
Sullivan85515
Perry80521
Spencer7957
Jennings79114
Fulton78717
Fountain7257
Washington6966
Carroll65313
Orange64828
Franklin63525
Owen5676
Vermillion5662
Newton53412
Parke5296
Tipton52826
Blackford50011
Rush5006
Pike49618
Pulaski36410
Martin3425
Brown3153
Benton3101
Crawford2711
Union2551
Switzerland2453
Warren2272
Ohio2227
Unassigned0265

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 351419

Reported Deaths: 5996
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin48389665
Cuyahoga34096734
Hamilton28674371
Montgomery19082225
Butler14138144
Lucas13446406
Summit12431309
Stark8122197
Warren770375
Mahoning6772299
Lake625466
Lorain590297
Clermont541946
Delaware521435
Licking506275
Fairfield505163
Trumbull4969144
Greene489662
Clark486664
Marion451451
Allen446384
Wood4243107
Medina413354
Miami398565
Pickaway387948
Columbiana328496
Portage323171
Wayne303593
Tuscarawas299557
Richland293929
Mercer281237
Ross234559
Hancock225336
Muskingum223610
Auglaize218925
Putnam218649
Darke208058
Erie205565
Ashtabula204753
Geauga189451
Scioto186713
Lawrence181336
Athens17954
Union17928
Shelby176715
Seneca165018
Belmont151529
Madison151018
Sandusky144427
Preble143821
Huron139218
Holmes137039
Defiance131121
Knox118818
Logan118313
Fulton117225
Ottawa114730
Crawford114216
Washington112427
Clinton100314
Williams9938
Jefferson9894
Ashland98322
Highland96317
Henry94422
Brown9324
Champaign8935
Jackson87312
Fayette86617
Van Wert8596
Morrow8312
Hardin82518
Guernsey79213
Coshocton78813
Perry73312
Pike7081
Adams70611
Wyandot68916
Gallia68113
Paulding61710
Hocking58511
Noble56121
Carroll41610
Meigs36312
Monroe29921
Morgan2342
Vinton2075
Harrison1823
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
30° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 30°
Angola
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 28°
Huntington
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 32°
Decatur
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 32°
Van Wert
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 32°
Snow/Rain Showers Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events