It has been less than a week since a lone gunman opened fire in two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more, and the country’s elected officials have already taken steps to change its gun control laws.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that all military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines will be banned in New Zealand. “On 15 March our history changed forever,” she said during a press conference. “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.”
“Six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” she said. “Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.” Even the leader of the country’s opposition party, Simon Bridges, is supportive of the ban, signaling widespread support. He said it was “imperative in the national interest [that] we keep New Zealanders safe.”
“Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terror attack on Friday will be banned,” Ardern continued. “This legislation will be drafted and introduced in urgency.” According to CNN, this announcement comes after New Zealand’s cabinet agreed to overhaul its laws just 72 hours after the attacks. The country is planning to offer an amnesty period for those owning firearms that will now be reclassified as illegal and a buyback program may be part of the new legislation, as well. According to the BBC, the buyback program could cost New Zealand up to $200 million (in NZ currency) but “that is the price that we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities,” says Ardern.
The swift action in the wake of a mass shooting drew praise from many progressives stateside. “Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks w/ #HR8,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted. Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market. This is what leadership looks like.”
“This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like. We must follow New Zealand’s lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote.
“See. It’s not that hard,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who has been particularly active on gun issues since the Sandy Hook massacre in his state.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch responded to Sanders’ tweet: ” First, define ‘assault weapon.’ Words are important and certain laws come into play depending on which words are used, so define this. Secondly, the US isn’t NZ. While they do not have an inalienable right to bear arms and to self defense, we do.”