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New Zealand to introduce gun law reform after terrorist shooting which killed 50

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced the decision on Monday afternoon in a press conference, saying that her cabinet is completely ‘unified’ in changing the legislation.

New Zealand will be introducing a reform on its gun law within 10 days of Friday’s deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch which murdered 50 people and injured more than 50.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced the decision on Monday afternoon in a press conference, saying that her cabinet is completely ‘unified’ in changing the legislation.

‘Why is it that we have a situation where military style semi-automatic weapons are available to license holders?’ Ms Ardern asked in an interview with Radio New Zealand on Monday. ‘We'll be looking to move as quickly as we can.’

The primary suspect, alleged gunman Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, had used two semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns, and a lever-action firearm in Friday’s mass shooting. The Australian was said to have been stockpiling weapons while living in the South Island city of Dunedin.

The killer was granted a “category A” gun license in November 2017 and had began legally purchasing firearms the next month through online mail orders and buying at retail stores. The ease of firearms purchase from a non-local like Tarrant reflects the weakness in regulation for gun control in New Zealand, an issue senior leaders have been warning for some time.

New Zealand is known to have some of the ‘most permissive gun policies in the region’, according to international firearm injury prevention watchdog gunpolicy.org.

Mrs Ardern said there would be a national commemoration service to grief on the tragedy of the attacks, after the victims are returned to their loved ones.

Low crime rates in New Zealand

Estimates from the New Zealand police revealed roughly 1.2 million legal firearms in the country in 2014, an amount that adds up to around one gun for every four person. The country has a population of 4.79 million.

However, crime rates in the country is low. Firearm fatalities were below 10 people between 2007 and 2016, with the exception from 2009 which had 11 deaths.

More than two decades ago, retired judge Sir Thomas Thorp recommended banning military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) weapons and told the government to limit the magazine capacity of other semi-automatic weapons and pump-action shotguns. He also called for the government to maintain a registry of gun owners, and force them to renew their licenses every three years.

A tighter process to issue gun licenses was also suggested, but due to the gun lobby, several attempts to pass tighter gun laws were evoked.

In New Zealand, anyone above the age of 16 can apply for a firearms license, which will be valid for 10 years after a safety course and a background check is conducted.

It is however, illegal in New Zealand to openly carry a firearm in plain view in a public space and to carry a concealed firearm in a public space.

Social media platforms need to demonstrate responsibility

New Zealand prime minister Ardern in her address to the media, pointed out that the live video of the shooting was shared 1.5 million times and called for social media platforms to ‘demonstrate responsibility’.

Tarrant’s video was copied and circulated by users on Facebook. According to Facebook, it has removed 1.5 million videos of the attack in the first 24 hours, the company said in a tweet on Sunday.

Of the 1.5 million deleted videos, Facebook said over 1.2 million were blocked at the point of upload.

Tarrant also posted an 87-page manifesto before the shooting, which was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-muslim speeches. The same manifesto was also emailed to the New Zealand prime minister before the attack.

The video and manifesto has reignited the discussion on whether social media platforms are doing enough to catch hate-filled, racial-slurred content, amid calls for regulation from various governments.


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