Wellington: Assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics have been banned in New Zealand after Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, announced sweeping and immediate changes to gun laws following the Christchurch mosque shootings.
“I absolutely believe there will be a common view amongst New Zealanders, those who use guns for legitimate purposes, and those who have never touched one, that the time for the mass and easy availability of these weapons must end. And today they will,” said Ardern.
Parts that are used to convert guns into military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs) have also being banned, along with high-capacity magazines and parts that cause a firearm to generate semi-automatic, automatic or close-to-automatic gunfire.
“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” said Ardern.
The ban on the sale of the weapons came into effect at 3pm on Thursday – the time of the press conference announcing the ban – with the prime minister warning that “all sales should now cease” of the weapons.
Ardern also directed officials to develop a gun buyback scheme for those who already own such weapons. She said “fair and reasonable compensation” would be paid.
The buyback scheme is estimated to cost between $100m and $200m. Ardern said the government was still working out how to fund it.
New Zealand, a country of less than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5m firearms. The number of MSSA weapons is not known, but there are 13,500 firearms which require the owner to have an E-Cat licence, which the government is using to estimate the number of MSSAs.
Stuart Nash, the minister of police, said they “have no idea” how many assault rifles are in circulation.
“It’s part of the problem,” said Nash. “The prime minister gave a figure for the buyback [cost], the reason there’s such a large gap is we have no idea. We have an indicative set of numbers around MSSAs.”
“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,” the prime minister said. “Our actions, on behalf of all New Zealanders, are directed at making sure this never happens again.”
The measures were praised internationally, with Rebecca Peters, who helped lead the successful campaign to reform Australia’s gun laws in the 1990s, saying: “Its been the fastest response ever by a government after a tragedy.”