New Zealand moves to ban military-style rifles 6 days after mass shooting in Christchurch
Less than a week after a white supremacist opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 people and wounding dozens of others, New Zealand has moved to ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons. “Our history has changed forever,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. “Now our laws will too.”
As reported by BBC News, Ardern announced that the country, which had long debated tightening gun laws but had failed to act, will now ban everything that fits within the categories of military-style semi-automatics or assault rifles. And to make it exceeding clear, they will ban all high-capacity magazines, along with parts and kits used to convert rifles that fall outside these categories into military-style rifles.
Previous laws in New Zealand had placed strict registration requirements on some types of semi-automatic rifles, but left open loopholes that allowed the purchase of those same rifles and the parts needed to transform them into military-style weapons without registration. Multiple attempts had been made to close these loopholes, along with others that allowed owning large numbers of weapons, but those attempts foundered on opposition from gun dealers and supporters. In the wake of the Christchurch shootings, agreement was reached to make strong changes to gun laws in less than six days. Ardern indicated that the new regulations should be in place by April 11.
Following a 1996 shooting in Tasmania in which 35 people were murdered, Australia instituted a similar ban on semi-automatic rifles and conducted a buyback campaign to remove 600,000 of the weapons from circulation. There were 13 mass shootings in the 20 years previous to the action. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since the ban went into effect. Overall gun homicides in Australia were reduced by more than half.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates there are between 5 million and 10 million AR-15 rifles currently in private hands in the United States. AR-15s are just one type of military-style semi-automatic rifle. Some version of an AR-15 was used to commit the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado (2012); Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (2012); San Bernardino, California (2015); First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017); and Parkland, Florida (2018). A different type of military-style rifle was used in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.