WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday (Mar 21) that military style semi-automatic and assault rifles will be banned under stronger new gun laws, following the killing of 50 people in the country's worst mass shooting.
The move comes less than a week after a white supremacist rampaged through two mosques, shooting at people as they prayed, sparking global revulsion and national outrage.
"On 15 March our history changed forever," said Ardern.
“Cabinet agreed to overhaul the law when it met on Monday, 72 hours after the horrific terrorism act in Christchurch.
"Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand," she added.
She said 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.
Legislation enacting the restriction will be introduced in parliament when it meets in early April, but an interim measure means a ban on new purchases has - for practical purposes - already been enacted.
Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buyback after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were gunned down.
The AR-15 was used at Port Arthur and has been used in a number of high-profile US mass shootings.
A buyback scheme will be established for the banned weapons, which will cost between NZ$100 million and NZ$200 million (between US$69 million and US$139 million), depending on the number of weapons received.
Anyone who keeps the guns after an amnesty period will face fines of up to US$4,000 and three years in jail.
Ardern brushed aside suggestions of opposition to the ban, expressing confidence that gun owners will understand the "national interest" behind the moves and that the new law will provide for "narrow exemptions for legitimate business use".
"The vast majority of New Zealanders will support this change. I feel incredibly confident of that," she said.
“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," she said.
"Our actions, on behalf of all New Zealanders, are directed at making sure this never happens again.”
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Ardern said that similar to Australia, the new gun laws will allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers to conduct pest control and animal welfare.
Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supported the change.
"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," Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesman Miles Anderson said in a statement.
Kawthar Abulaban, 54, who survived the shooting at Al Noor mosque told AFP: "It's a good thing, why would we need to have guns like this in our houses?"
"The semi-automatics, why would you keep that inside your house, it's not right."
New Zealand, a country of less than five million people, has an estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million firearms, around 13,500 of them MSSA type weapons.
The minimum legal age to own a gun in New Zealand is currently 16, or 18 for military style semi-automatic weapons.