New Zealand Bans Semiautomatic Weapons in a 119-1 Vote

Twenty-four hours after a right-wing terrorist killed 50 people in a Christchurch mosque, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a national ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons. The ban, which passed the legislature in a 119 to 1 vote, extends to all high-capacity ammunition and parts that allow guns to be converted into military-style semiautomatic weapons. All parties, including the main opposition party, overwhelmingly supported Ardern’s plan. Since the perpetrator obtained his firearms legally, Ardern wants to prevent future casualties through a broad firearms ban.

“Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terror attack on Friday will be banned,” Arden promised. “These weapons were designed to kill, and they were designed to maim and that is what they did on the 15th of March,” she said.

The new law updates the Arms Act of 1983, which Parliament passed after the last mass shooting. The 2019 version includes a buy-back scheme, so who own banned weapons can sell them back to the police for compensation depending on their age and quality. Those found in possession of outlawed weapons face up to five years in prison. The law also reclassifies some weapons as “military style” so people who owned firearms that were legal in the past must surrender them to the police. Police Commissioner Mike Bush said that gun drops will be set up at police stations so citizens can safely surrender their weapons.

During the debate in Parliament, Ardern stood on the floor and told stories of when she visited victims in the hospital. All the victims she spoke to suffered multiple gunshot wounds. On top of the physical disabilities, the victims will carry the psychological impact with them for the rest of their lives. She urged lawmakers to use their voices to stand up for the people who had lost theirs.

After an accelerated debate process, the House of Representatives passed the law 119-1. The sole dissenter represents the right-wing libertarian ACT party.

Ardern applauded Parliament’s bipartisanship and “[could not] imagine circumstances where that is more necessary than it is now.”

In addition to the firearms ban, Ardern emphasized that tech companies must limit the spread of white supremacist messages online. The terrorist used message boards to become radicalized and radicalize others. She wants to work with tech companies to find the right balance between internet freedom and protecting New Zealanders of all backgrounds.


Media Resources: The New York Times 3/20/19; CNN 3/21/19; BBC 4/10/19; The Atlantic 3/21/19; Feminist Newswire 3/22/19

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