New Zealand already has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, but within the next week, residents might have even less freedom when it comes to gun ownership.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced after a weekly cabinet meeting that new reforms would be coming, declaring that “the time to act is now.”
“Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” Ardern said.
She claimed that the “worst act of terrorism on our shores” had “exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws.” Last Friday, a gunman shot and killed 50 men, women, and children inside two mosques in the city of Churchchrist. Dozens more were wounded.
Ardern also laid out the government’s plan for the coming days. On Tuesday, members of parliament would offer condolences to the victims of last week’s massacre. On Wednesday, Ardern herself would travel to Christchurch to meet with first responders and families.
The prime minister claimed that concerns among law-abiding gun owners have been heard.
“I know that this might, for a short period, create a small degree of uncertainty amongst some gun owners, including those who possess guns for legitimate reasons, and I particularly acknowledge those in our rural communities,” Ardern said. “I want to assure you that the work that we are doing is not directed at you.”
“In fact, I strongly believe that the vast majority of gun owners in New Zealand will agree with the sentiment that change needs to occur,” she added.
Arden then immediately reminded residents that they can “surrender” their weapon to law enforcement and encouraged them to do so.
Beyond gun control measures, Arden said an inquiry would be opened to discover whether there were any intelligence failures that could be reformed to keep such a massacre from happening again. The shooter had purchased weapons legally (and then illegally modified them) and was not on any government watch lists.
Ardern would not directly answer a question about whether the new gun control measures would include a semi-automatic weapon ban, as she had alluded to on Saturday. At that time, Ardern said such a proposal was “certainly one of the issues that I’m looking at with immediate effect.” New Zealand Attorney General David Parker then promised attendees at a vigil that the government was planning such a ban.
The prime minister also invoked Australia’s past decision to confiscate guns, boasting that she and her cabinet have taken far fewer days to agree “in principal” on gun control measures.
In 1996, after a deadly shooting, Australia instituted a mandatory “gun buyback” program that required citizens to give law enforcement their weapons in exchange for money.
During questioning at her press conference, Ardern also encouraged social media outlets to do more to crack down on speech that incites violence, noting that the shooter’s video of the massacre had been uploaded 1.5 million times.
Ardern also said there would be a country-wide memorial date in the near future to allow all citizens to mourn.