New Zealand tightens gun laws post terror attack

Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday announced a new range of legislative measures toughening requirements to obtain and keep a firearms license as the country is still attempting to heal from March’s traumatic terror attack in which 51 people were killed.

Ardern said that these changes to the nation’s gun law were being introduced to stop the weapons from falling into the wrong hands as part of the second stage of gun reform after the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch city on March 15.

The sole suspect in the attack, Brenton Tarrant – who stands accused of engaging in a terrorist act and faces 51 counts of murder and 40 of attempted murder for the mass shooting – had obtained a firearms license in November 2017 after passing all legal requirements.

In announcing the second tranche of gun law reforms, Ardern also said licenses will have to be renewed every five years – half of the time in the current scheme, New Zealand Herald reported.

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But she ditched the recommendation for an independent body to oversee gun laws and regulations, which was recommended in the 1997 report by Sir Thomas Thorp, the last major review of gun laws.

Instead the police will set up a national register and an independent group of experts, including people from the firearms community, to advise the police and report annually.

“Owning a firearm is a privilege and comes with an obligation to demonstrate a high level of safety and responsibility,” Ardern said in a televised address.

Foreigners will be banned from buying firearms in the country and a warning system will be implemented so that law enforcement can intervene if it detects any suspicious behaviour by the license owner.

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In addition, new controls on firearms advertising were expected. Showing the license will be required to buy magazine parts and ammunition and new procedures will be put in place for shooting clubs and ranges licenses.

The announcement comes after New Zealand’s Parliament toughened gun laws on semi-automatic and assault rifles in April, which has led at least 2,100 people to hand over their weapons to the government after a buy-back scheme was introduced.

Tarrant livestreamed his attack while shooting indiscriminately at worshippers who had gathered at the Al-Noor mosque – the first of the two that were targeted – for Friday prayers on Facebook for over 17 minutes.

The suspect, who also posted a white supremacist manifesto on social media, caught the authorities unaware as he had no previous criminal record and obtained his firearms license legally.

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