CHRISTCHURCH — On the afternoon of March 15, as Muslims gathered for Friday prayers, a gunman entered the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and shot at anyone in his path before driving to another mosque and doing the same.
The shooting spree proved to be the deadliest in the country’s history, leaving 50 people dead, dozens more injured, and propelling the island country into a moment of national soul-searching.
Less than a month later, the type of weapons used by the gunman are now banned under dramatic new legislation that has effectively rebuilt New Zealand’s gun laws overnight.
The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill took effect Friday, outlawing almost all semi-automatic and military-style weapons and a host of gun accessories and parts. The bill marks a sweeping overhaul of the country's gun laws, and more reform is still on the way.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spearheaded the change, with support from all but one member of the 120-seat Parliament.
On Wednesday, the bill had its final reading in parliament, where lawmakers spoke passionately about the need for reform.
"We are ultimately here because 50 people died and they do not have a voice," Ardern told lawmakers before they voted on the act.
VICE News followed the political process from the beginning, speaking with survivors of the mosque attacks, political players, and key figures in New Zealand’s gun industry. They all had something to say about their country’s race to reform its gun laws, and the tragedy that inspired it.
On a special episode of VICE News Tonight, we return to New Zealand to find out how the country was able to ban almost all military-style semi-automatic guns in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. Watch it at 7:30 p.m. EST on HBO.