New Zealand’s cabinet backs action on gun laws
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to announce details of reforms by 25 March
New Zealand’s prime minister says her cabinet has backed gun law changes “in principle” after the Christchurch mass shooting last Friday.
Calls for legal reform have grown after the attack, and Jacinda Ardern said: “Our gun laws will change”. It has been rumoured that Ardern had earlier said options on the table included a ban on semi-automatic rifles.
Fifty people were killed and dozens wounded in attacks at two mosques on Friday. Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, has appeared in court and been charged with murder.
Saying that she plans to announce details of the reforms by 25 March, Arden explained: “This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer.”
She added: “We have made a decision as a cabinet, we are unified.”
As New Zealand wrestles with the consequences of the tragedy, there have been unconfirmed reports of people handing in their guns to police. Arden encouraged others to follow suit. Referring to reports of people “panic-buying” weapons, Ardern said these were anecdotal and unconfirmed. She encouraged calm.
New Zealand's Police Association has called for semi-automatic weapons to be banned, Radio New Zealand reported. Although there has been a longstanding campaign to reform gun laws in the country, all efforts have failed due to a strong gun lobby and a culture of hunting.
There are an estimated 1.5m privately owned firearms in New Zealand. The current minimum legal age to own a gun is 16, or 18 for military-style semi-automatic weapons.
Ardern said the Christchurch suspect had a gun licence, which he acquired in 2017, and owned five guns. The arms retailer Gun City said it had sold weapons to Tarrant, but not the high-powered gun used in the mosque shootings.
Meanwhile, regional newspaper Press reports that the local rugby club the Crusaders is going to consider changing its name due to concerns over sensitivity. The wars between Christians and Muslims in the 11th and 13th centuries were known as the Crusades.
The New Zealand news website Stuff says that the first bodies of victims are leaving the hospital in Christchurch. “One grey hearse has just left the hospital, with another arriving shortly after,” it reported.
The BBC says “it's becoming clear” that many of victims were refugees “who thought they had found safety in New Zealand”.