"I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promised to change the country’s gun laws in the wake of Friday’s mass shooting which killed 50 people and injured 48 more, including two children under the age of five.
Gun control experts have urged the prime minister to act swiftly to enact stricter firearms laws in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack to prevent the pro-gun lobby from being able to weaken the reforms.
Ardern said on Saturday that she planned to reform gun laws and her government has already announced it will ban semi-automatic rifles.
As it stands, more than 2,000 firearms, including several types of semi-automatic rifle, can be legally purchased under a category A-licence – the entry-level gun licence in New Zealand which does not require a licence holder to register their weapons.
NZ police commissioner Mike Bush told reporters that the guns used in the killing were able to be purchased legally under this licence. However, the weapons were not legal as they were found by police after the attack.
“A category-A firearm holder can purchase the firearms without the magazines or the things that will enable them to be in the state that they were,” Bush said.
Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man arrested and charged in relation to the massacre, had held a category-A firearms licence since December 2017. He was alleged to have had five guns, including two semi-automatic rifles and two shotguns.
“The mere fact that this individual had acquired a gun licence and acquired weapons of that range, then obviously I think people will be seeking change, and I’m committing to that,” Ardern said.
“While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence, and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change.”
Anyone over 16 can apply for a New Zealand firearms licence, which is valid for 10 years after they complete a safety course and a police background check.
New Zealand has a lower rate of gun crime in Australia, despite having three times the number of licensed gun owners per head of population.
Under Australian law, all guns must be registered to a licensed gun owner and automatic and semi-automatic weapons are banned.