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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.