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Terror-struck New Zealand quickly bans assault weapons

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an immediate ban on the sale of all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, fulfilling her promise to reform gun laws less than a week after terror attacks killed 50 Muslims at two mosques in the country.


Prime Minister Ardern made the announcement on Thursday, just six days after she pledged to tighten the country’s gun laws, which had allowed the assailant in the terror attacks to legally purchase the weapons he used in the attacks.

Fifty people were killed and another 50 were wounded by the same gunman during prayers at two mosques in the city of Christchurch last Friday. The assailant, who was arrested on the same day, targeted the Muslims with five guns — all of them legally bought. Police said two of the guns were military-style semi-automatic rifles.

“Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” Ardern told a press conference on Thursday.

High-capacity magazines and devices similar to bump stocks — which can convert ordinary weapons into military style semi-automatics — were also be banned, according to Ardern.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) speaks during a press conference with Police Minister Stuart Nash at the Parliament House in Wellington, New Zealand, on March 21, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Formal legislation on the ban will be introduced in parliament in early April; but, an interim measure has already been put in place, effectively giving the ban immediate effect.

“The effect of this,” Ardern said, “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 also unveiled a buyback scheme for the weapons that have now been banned but are already in private possession. Following the attacks, police had already called on the public to hand in their weapons, and many were doing so voluntarily, according to reports.

The quick enactment of the gun laws was a remarkable step by Ardern, who has also been globally admired for her empathy with survivors and the relatives of the victims. People and politicians in other countries remain sharply divided in the gun debate — most visibly in the United States.

All victims identified

Meanwhile, police confirmed on Thursday that postmortems had been completed and all 50 victims of the Christchurch massacre had been identified.

“As of a few minutes ago, the identification process into all 50 victims has been complete and all of the next-of-kin have been advised. That is a landmark for this process,” New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said.

Among the victims were nationals from Syria, Jordan, India, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

As of Wednesday, the bodies of only six victims had been identified. That same day, hundreds of mourners gathered near the Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch — one of two places that were struck in the shooting — to hold the first funeral ceremony for two victims of the terror attacks.

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