New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced an immediate ban on military-style semi-automatic guns and assault rifles as the country prepared to mark one week since the Christchurch mosque attacks.
The ban includes parts used to convert guns into military-style weapons, along with high-capacity magazines. Ardern added that a gun buyback scheme will be established.
“The government will take immediate action today to restrict the potential stockpiling of these guns and encourage people to continue to surrender their firearms,” Ardern said.
“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” she said.
Similar to Australia, New Zealand will allow exemptions for farmers upon application, including for pest control and animal welfare.
Ardern said that additional laws will be developed to strengthen the country’s gun laws even further, including “more effective licensing rules, storage requirements and penalties for not complying with gun regulations.”
The alleged mosque attacker used modified semi-automatic guns he had bought legally in New Zealand with his gun licence.
“While the modification of these guns was illegal, it was done easily through a simple online purchase,” Ardern said.
New Zealand is one of the few developed countries that does not require gun-owners to register the majority of their weapons. Only military style semi-automatic firearms need to be registered.
It is estimated that the buyback scheme will cost the government between 100 and 200 million New Zealand dollars (70 to 140 million dollars).
New Zealand’s hunters and farmers have thrown their support behind the law changes.
“The ban on military rifles is the right decision and limiting shotgun magazine capacity is sensible,” Fish and Game’s Martin Taylor said.
Federated Farmers said that although the changes would not be popular among some its members, they were the only practicable solution.
“We are trying to tread a responsible path. The wrong guns can’t be allowed to get into the wrong hands,” spokesperson Miles Anderson said.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said on Thursday all 50 victims of the attacks had been formally identified and the bodies could now be released to loved ones who had endured an agonizing wait.
Under Islamic law, bodies should be buried as soon as possible from the time of death.
More than 120 people including police, army pathologists and overseas assistants were involved in the identification process.
The first bodies were released Tuesday evening and the first funerals were held on Wednesday. Since then, a steady stream of funerals has taken place in Christchurch.
On Thursday, 28 people who were injured in the shootings were still in Christchurch Hospital, with six remaining in a critical condition in intensive care, the hospital said in a statement.
A 4-year-old girl remained in a critical condition in a children’s hospital in Auckland and her father was in a stable condition in a nearby hospital.
Ardern on Thursday also released details for a nationwide commemoration for the victims on Friday. The Muslim call to prayer at 1.30pm (00:30 GMT) will be broadcast widely followed by two minutes of silence at 1.32pm.
“I know many New Zealanders wish to mark the week that has passed since the terrorist attack and to support the Muslim community as they return to mosques,” Ardern said.
Thousands of New Zealand women have indicated on social media that they will wear head scarves in solidarity with the Muslim community.
“It’s choosing to move towards each other, to recognise our similarities, to not actively look for difference but to actively look to live in harmony together,” said “Head Scarves for Harmony” organizer Thaya Ashman.
The movement had support from the Islamic Women’s Council and the New Zealand Muslim Association, she said.
A broad range of groups, including churches and community organizations, have called for people to form a “human chain of love” around many of the country’s mosques during Friday prayers.
New Zealand’s Maori Council has called for a national war dance, or haka, on Friday to support the Muslim community.
“The haka is a powerful reminder of the connection between culture and community. It is iconic and a sign of respect,” Maori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki said in a statement.