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New Zealand bans semi-automatic weapons after mosque attack; Ardern shows the way

March 21, 2019
WELLINGTON: New Zealand has decided to ban all military-style weapons following the Christchurch mosque shootimgs that claimed the lives of 50 worshippers at prayers. The gun control legislation is expected to be passed in parliament by April 11, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.

"On 15 March our history changed forever. 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 said at a press conference in the New Zealand capital, Wellington.

The Prime Minister's announcement followed a Cabinet meeting which decided to overhaul the gun control law and ban military-style semi- automatic weapons and assault rifles.

Every semi-automatic weapon, the type used in the terror attack on Friday in Christchurch, will be banned, Ardern said. "This legislation will be drafted and introduced in urgency," by April 11, she said.

"The vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest," Ardern said.

There is likely to be an amnesty scheme in which the Government will buy back the banned weapons. But from Thursday all such arms now coming under the new ban will have to be dropped at the police stations, New Zealand Governor General Patsy Reddy ordered. Gun drops would be set up at police stations. There will be exceptions for the defence personnel, police and for pest control purposes.

Ardern took reference to the Australian control following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. There was a drastic fall in shootings and suicides.

A surge of petitions and protests is taking place in the country demanding gun controls.

"The National (party) has been clear since this devastating attack that we support changes to our regime and that we will work constructively with the Government," Opposition leader Simon Bridges said.

The gun control Bill, an amendment to the Arms Act 1983, will be introduced in the parliament in the first week of April.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said in a statement that the bodies of all the 50 people killed in the shooting have been identified and would be handed over to their relatives.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, has been charged with murder. Three more, including a woman, are in custody for last Friday's mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 Muslim worshippers assembled for weekly prayers.

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