Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an immediate ban Thursday on semi-automatic and automatic weapons like the ones used in the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 worshippers.
“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned,” she said.
The man charged in the attack purchased his weapons legally using a standard firearms license and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines “done easily through a simple online purchase,” she said.
Ardern said she expects the new laws to be in place by April 11, but an interim measure means a ban on new purchases has for practical purposes already been enacted. A buy-back scheme will be established for banned weapons.
“Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand,” Ardern said. “Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.”
Similar to Australia
Ardern said that similar to Australia, the new gun laws will allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers to conduct pest control and animal welfare.
“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride.”
Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supported the change.
“This will not be popular among some of our members but after a week of intense debate and careful consideration by our elected representatives and staff, we believe this is the only practicable solution,” Federated Farmers Rural Security spokesman Miles Anderson said in a statement.
One of New Zealand’s largest gun retailers, Hunting & Fishing New Zealand, said it supports “any government measure to permanently ban such weapons.”
“While we have sold them in the past to a small number of customers, last week’s events have forced a reconsideration that has led us to believe such weapons of war have no place in our business — or our country,” CEO Darren Jacobs said in a statement.
Regardless of the ban, the company would no longer stock any assault-style firearms of any category and would also stop selling firearms online, he said.
Mosque attack victims buried
Ardern’s announcement comes less than a week after the killings, as more of the dead were being buried. At least six funerals took place Thursday, including for a teenager, a youth soccer coach and a Muslim convert who loved connecting with other women at the mosque.
Cashmere High School student Sayyad Ahmad Milne, 14, was known as an outgoing boy and the school’s futsal goalkeeper. Tariq Rashid Omar, 24, graduated from the same school, played soccer in the summer and was a beloved coach of several youth teams.
Linda Armstrong, 64, a third-generation New Zealander who converted to Islam in her 50s, was also buried, as were Hussein Mohamed Khalil Moustafa, 70, Matiullah Safi, 55, and Haji Mohammed Daoud Nabi.
Families of those killed had been awaiting word on when they could bury their loved ones. Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced Thursday that authorities have formally identified and released the remains of all of the victims. Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible.
Friday prayer service
Meanwhile, preparations are underway for a massive Friday prayer service to be led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where worshippers were killed.
Imam Gamal Fouda said he is expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people at Friday’s prayer service, including many who have come from abroad. He expects it will take place in Hagley Park, a city landmark across from Al Noor mosque with members of the Linwood mosque also attending.
Al Noor workers have been trying feverishly to repair the destruction at the mosque, Fouda said.
“They will bury the carpet,” he said. “Because it is full of blood, and it’s contaminated.”
Fouda said that he expects the mosque to be ready to open again by next week and that some skilled workers had offered their services for free.
“The support we have been getting from New Zealand and the community has been amazing,” he said. (VOA)