New Zealand bans sales of assault weapons days after mosque bloodbath
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New Zealand bans sales of assault weapons days after mosque bloodbath

PM Ardern announces halt on semi-automatic guns, assault rifles and bump stocks in response to Christchurch shooting; existing gun-owners told to sell back arms or face fines

A policewoman patrols past a memorial wall outside the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch on March 21, 2019. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)
A policewoman patrols past a memorial wall outside the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch on March 21, 2019. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an immediate ban on the sale of assault rifles and semi-automatics Thursday in a muscular response to the Christchurch terror attack that killed 50 people.

“Today I am announcing that New Zealand will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons. We will also ban all assault rifles,” Ardern said, while announcing interim measures that will stop a rush of purchases before legislation is enacted.

The man charged in the attack had purchased his weapons legally using a standard firearms license and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines “done easily through a simple online purchase,” she said.

“The effect of this will mean that no one will be able to buy these weapons without a permit to procure from the police. I can assure people that there is no point in applying for such a permit,” she said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to journalists during a press conference at the Justice Precinct in Christchurch on March 20, 2019. (Marty MELVILLE / AFP)

She added that high capacity magazines and devices similar to bump stocks — which make rifles fire faster — will also be banned.

“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” she said.

Ardern’s announcement comes less than a week after the killings, as more of the dead were being buried. At least six funerals took place Thursday, including for a teenager, a youth soccer coach and a Muslim convert who loved connecting with other women at the mosque.

Families of those killed had been awaiting word on when they could bury their loved ones. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities have formally identified and released the remains of 21 victims. Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible.

Mourners proceed with a coffin of Sayyad Milne, victim of New Zealand’s twin mosque massacre, for burial after a funeral prayer at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch on March 21, 2019. (Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

Ardern brushed aside suggestions of opposition to the ban.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders will support this change. I feel incredibly confident of that,” she said.

For the guns that are still out there, Ardern announced a buyback scheme that will cost between Nz$100 million and $200 million (between US$69 million and $139 million), depending on the number of weapons received.

Nik Green (2nd R), semi-automatic weapons ban petition organiser, speaks in front of the Parliament House in Wellington on March 21, 2019. (Dave Lintott / AFP)

Anyone who keeps the guns after an amnesty period will face fines of up to $4,000 and three years’ in jail.

To “the current owners of the weapons we have moved to ban, I acknowledge that many of you will have acted within the law,” Ardern said.

“In recognition of that and to incentivize their return, we will be establishing a buyback scheme.”

Reaction in the still-shocked country was positive.

In this Saturday, March 16, 2019, file photo, flowers lay at a memorial near the Masjid Al Noor mosque for victims in last week’s shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

“It’s a good thing, why would we need to have guns like this in our houses?” Kawthar Abulaban, 54, who survived the shooting at Al Noor mosque told AFP.

“The semi-automatics, why would you keep that inside your house, it’s not right.”

The scale of the attack has caused a worldwide outcry, heightened by alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant’s use of social media to livestream the carnage.

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