New Zealand just announced sweeping new gun laws that may cost the country up to R2 billion. Here's how they will work
- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on all "military-style semi-automatic weapons" and assault rifles just days after the country experienced its worst mass shoting of all time in Christchurch.
- The ban went into affect at 15:00 local time and will officially be put into law by April 11.
- The government is also introducing a gun buyback programme, which will offer cash incentives to those who are still in possession of the illegal weapons.
- The program is estimated to cost anywhere between R900 million to R1,9 billion. There will be an amnesty period in place to allow people to hand in their banned weapons within a reasonable amount of time.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on all "military-style semi-automatic weapons" and assault rifles just days after the country experienced its worst mass shooting of all time.
"Today I am announcing that New Zealand will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a Thursday press conference. "We will also ban all assault rifles," she continued. "We will ban all high capacity magazines. We will ban all parts with the ability to convert semi-automatic or any other type of firearm into a military-style semi-automatic weapon. We will ban parts that cause a firearm to generate semi-automatic, automatic or close to automatic gunfire."Ardern said that the ban on selling or possessing those weapons went into affect at 15:00 local time, and it serves as an "interim measure" while legislation is prepared. She said she hopes the ban will officially be put into law by April 11. "This is just the beginning of the work we need to do," Ardern said, explaining that current laws do not "go far enough."
What does the ban mean?
Until today I was one of the New Zealanders who owned a semi-automatic rifle. On the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesnâ€™t outweigh the risk of misuse.
We donâ€™t need these in our country.
While official legislation is prepared, the country has now made immediate changes to licensing regulations, which will will make it more difficult for buyers to get their hands on assault weapons.
Previously, New Zealand allowed for the ownership of military-style semi-automatic weapons, which they refer to as MSSAs, and a legal loophole permitted many people to purchase them without a special designated licenses. MSSAs were defined by law by their parts, so modification of the weapons would allow people to purchase them without the need for a special license.
Two types of firearms have now been reclassified as MSSAs:
- Semi-automatic firearms capable of being used with a detachable magazine that can hold more than five cartridges
- Semi-automatic shotguns capable of being used with a detachable magazine that can hold more than five cartridges
If you only have a certain type of license, as of Thursday at 3 p.m. local time you cannot legally possess MSSAs.
There are currently 245,000 firearms licences in circulation in New Zealand, according to the government, and the total number of firearms is estimated to be about 1.2 to 1.5 million.
Ardern discussed a national buyback scheme, which would offer "fair and reasonable" compensation to gun owners wishing to hand in their guns voluntarily.
She said the programme could cost anywhere between R900 million to R2 billion and added that there would be an amnesty period in place to allow people to hand in their banned weapons within a reasonable amount of time.
The programme would allow people to go online and fill out a form with the police to arrange the safe return of their weapons. They can also sell or gift their weapons to those who are in possession of a "Category-E" licence necessary to own MSSAs.
Once the full ban comes into effect, the penalties for those who don't hand in their guns will increase, Ardern said. Owning an assault weapon without the correct category licence was punishable by up to three years in prison or a R 40,000 fine. The cabinet will also consider further legislation, which would tighten firearm licenses and place more control over ammunition types.
Ardern says there is already support for the ban
On Thursday, the prime minister said that many have already expressed support for tightening gun legislation.
"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," she said. "And today they will."It took New Zealand less than a week to make changes to its gun laws following the mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 dead, and the move received broad positive feedback from around the world.
She added that the government sought advice from countries like neighboring Australia, which overhauled its gun laws in 1996 just 12 days after it experienced its deadliest mass shooting in the town of Port Arthur, Tasmania.
New Zealand's Police Association said it supported the government's decision for "demonstrating the courage to take decisive action and ban the firearms that have inflicted so much harm in New Zealand."
Lobby group Federated Farmers issued a statement in support of tighter gun laws, but admitted the decision would not be popular amongst some of its members.
New Zealand's opposition leader Simon Bridges of the New Zealand National Party released a statement in support of Ardern's decision.
"National has been clear since this devastating attack that we support changes to our regime and that we will work constructively with the Government," he said.
This contrasts with how US politicians respond following mass shootings, which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out on Twitter. She called out US leadership for failing to pass stricter gun legislation despite an uptick of major mass shootings in recent years.
Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we canâ€™t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks w/ #HR8.
Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market.
Around 11,000 people in the US are killed annually in firearm assaults, and Americans are more likely to die from gun violence than many leading causes of death combined.
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