After the worst mass shooting in its history, New Zealand politicians are vowing to change legislation around the availability of semiautomatic weapons.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on March 18, 2019

“While work is being done as to the chain of events that lead to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now. Our gun laws will change,” Ardern said in the aftermath of the Christchurch attack.

New Zealand has high levels of gun ownership and easy access to guns

New Zealand’s Attorney-General David Parker later said that the “decision has not yet been finalised” but confirmed that the government would examine the issue.

He went on to say “we need to ban semiautomatics, perhaps all of them”. The comments saw him dial back his initially decisive rhetoric in the wake of the terror attack; at a vigil for the victims, he had told the crowd that the government would ban the weapons.

Now the government is instead considering a range of legislative options, including gun buybacks and restricting the sale of magazines for semiautomatic weapons.

While New Zealand does not have a constitutionally enshrined right to gun ownership like the US, it does have a fairly lax registration system for guns. While gun owners need to be licensed, many weapons, such as hunting rifles, are never registered. Other weapons, such as handguns and semiautomatics, require permits for each weapon.

It is estimated New Zealand has 1.5 million guns in circulation in a population of less than five million.

Meeting to discuss gun laws in the wake of the Christchurch attack

Ardern’s government is set to meet on Monday to discuss changes to the nation’s gun laws. Ardern said she would also investigate claims that sales of guns have surged in New Zealand since the terror attack. “I want to get to the bottom of whether or not that has occurred,” she said.

“We cannot be deterred from the work we need to do on our gun laws in New Zealand. They need to change, regardless of what activity may or may not have happened with gun retailers.”

Officials believe the suspect in the terror attack used five different guns, some modified, that he had purchased legally. Two of the guns were semiautomatic assault weapons.

The shooter had been a member of the Bruce Rifle Club and practised shooting a bolt-action hunting rifle and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. The club has since turned its attendance logs over to the police.