The New Zealand has banned all military style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high capacity magazines with immediate effect. The ban is aimed at preventing the stockpiling of firearms while the legislation is being drafted.
The move comes in the light of terror attack on March 15, 2019, when gunmen opened fire at 2 mosques in Christchurch, killing 49 people.
Speaking on the ban, the Prime Minister of New Zealand – Jacinda Ardern said, “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. Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terror attack on Friday will be banned.”
She added, “To owners who have legitimate uses for their guns, I want to reiterate that the actions being announced today are not because of you and are not directed at you. Our actions, on behalf of all New Zealanders, are directed at making sure this never happens again. This legislation will be drafted and introduced in urgency.”
The gun reform proposal will be introduced in Parliament in the first week of April 2019. It will come into effect once lawmakers vote for amending the existing legislation, the Arms Act 1983.
In the meantime, New Zealand Governor General – Patsy Reddy has signed an order to reclassify some semi-automatic weapons as ‘military-style’ semi-automatic weapons. This means that people who own certain firearms legally will no longer be able to possess them.
The Cabinet has also directed officials to work on a buyback scheme. The buy-back would cost up to NZ $ 200 million (U.S. $ 138 million). Ardern mentioned that this is the price that must be paid to ensure the safety of the communities. The further details would be announced soon. The gun drop points would be set-up at police stations so that citizens can safely surrender their weapons.
Once the amnesty period ends, anyone possessing a banned weapon will face a penalty of NZ $ 4,000 and 3 years jail term.
Citing the Australian example, Ardern said that similar measures were taken in Australia following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. Under the ban, Australia destroyed more than a million weapons and additional gun buybacks and amnesties have been conducted since then. Last year, more than 57,000 weapons were handed in, including a rocket launcher and a World War II machine gun. Post this, 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.
The Police Minister – Stuart Nash said that the bill will exempt the police, the defense forces, as well as legitimate business uses such as professional pest control.
Nearly 70,000 New Zealanders have signed petitions asking for gun control reform. The crowd had gathered outside Parliament in Wellington to submit those petitions to lawmakers.
The move has been welcomed by the opposition and all the political parties in New Zealand who stand united in curbing the menace of terrorism.