Wellington: New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday passed the gun reform bill, banning all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, less than a month after the Christchurch carnage in which 50 people died.The gun reform bill, which passed 119-1 after its final reading in Parliament, is expected to become law on Friday after it receives royal assent from the Governor General.
The new curbs bar the circulation and use of most semi-automatic firearms, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatic firearms, magazines over a certain capacity and some shotguns. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced changes to the law after the deadly mosque shootings by self-proclaimed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant in Christchurch on March 15.
“I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could have been obtained legally in this country. I could not fathom that,” she said in Parliament on Wednesday. “I could not hand-on-heart go down and face not just the media, not just the public, but the victims that had been left behind from this terror attack and tell them hand-on-heart that our system and our laws allow these guns to be available and that was okay. Because it was not.
“I made a decision after that briefing that I would go down that day and, without having the chance to question the Parliament, know that Parliament would be with me. And they were,” she was cited as saying by the New Zealand Herald. Holding back tears while addressing Parliament, she said they were there “because of the victims and families” and that when she visited the injured in hospital none of them had just one gunshot wound.
“They will carry disabilities for a lifetime and that’s before you consider the psychological impact. These weapons were designed to kill and they were designed to maim and that is what they did on the 15th of March.” Brenton Tarrant, an Australian, faces 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges. Ardern, who won praise for her compassion and leadership since the massacre, was able to win rare bi-partisan support for a bill that makes it illegal to own a military-style semi-automatic rifle.
According to reports, the law includes a buy-back scheme under which owners of outlawed weapons can surrender them to the police by September 30 in return for compensation based on the weapon’s age and condition. More than 300 weapons have already been handed in. Anyone who retains a banned weapon after the law formally passes on Friday faces a penalty of up to five years in prison. The Prime Minister had called the Christchurch attacker a terrorist and said she will not utter his name.