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New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced Thursday a ban on all military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles — just six days after a terrorist killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch.
“On 15 March our history changed forever,” Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference in Auckland. “Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.”
Ardern expects the new laws to be in place by April 11.
The government also moved to prevent stockpiling of weapons before the changes become law. From Thursday all firearms that are to be banned will now require purchasers to have an E-category gun license.
A loophole in the law has allowed anyone with a basic A-category gun license to purchase a semiautomatic, such as an AR-15, before easily upgrading the firearm into a more dangerous military-style weapon.
Of the 242,000 licensed firearms holders in New Zealand, only 7,500 currently hold E-category licenses, which are much harder to obtain.
However, it appears people were already panic-buying these types of weapons. It was revealed Thursday that Gun City, the gun store where the accused Christchurch shooter purchased four weapons, has sold out of the assault rifle used in the massacre.
New Zealand will also ban parts used to convert regular weapons into MSSAs as well as all high-capacity magazines.
“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride,” Ardern added.
An amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in and the government will implement a buyback scheme for firearms owners, which is expected to cost as much as $140 million.
The ban does exclude some weapons, including semiautomatic .22 rifles and semiautomatic or pump action shotguns, as long as they are using magazines with a low number of rounds. “The Bill will include narrow exemptions for legitimate business use, which would include professional pest control. Police and the Defense Force will also have exemptions,” Police Minister Stuart Nash said.
The swift response and cross-party support for the new laws have drawn significant reaction in the U.S. where Sen. Bernie Sanders called for a similar ban.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) pointed out that no action was taken after the Parkland school shooting, saying that Ardern was showing ”what leadership looks like.”
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch responded by saying New Zealand is “an entirely different country that doesn’t have the right to bear arms as a cornerstone of its constitution.”
Cover image: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media on March 16, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. At least 49 people are confirmed dead, with more than 40 people injured following attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday afternoon. (Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)