CHRISTCHURCH — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she would announce new gun laws within days, after 50 people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face more charges.
“Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” Ardern said at news conference after her cabinet reached in principle decisions on gun reform laws in the wake of New Zealand’s worst ever mass shooting.
In addition to the 50 killed, dozens were wounded at two mosques in the South Island city during Friday prayers.
The owner of a New Zealand gun store said the man charged with murder in the mosque shootings had bought firearms and ammunition online from the store, but it did not sell him the high-powered weapon used in the massacre.
Gun City owner David Tipple said the alleged gunman bought four weapons and ammunition between December 2017 and March 2018.
“The MSSA, military-style automatic, reportedly used by the alleged gunman was not purchased from Gun City. Gun City did not sell him an MSSA, only A-category firearms,” Tipple told a news conference in Christchurch.
“New Zealand, a country of only 5 million people, has an estimated 1.5 million firearms.”
Under New Zealand gun laws, A-category weapons can be semi-automatic but limited to seven shots. Video of a gunman in one mosque showed a semi-automatic with a large magazine round.
Tipple said the online purchases followed a police-verified online mail-order process and A-category firearms were bought in three or four purchases.
“We detected nothing extraordinary about the licence holder. He was a brand new purchaser, with a brand new licence,” he said.
The shock of the attacks has led to calls for an immediate tightening of laws to restrict access to some firearms, particularly semi-automatic weapons.
Tipple said he supported Ardern’s call for gun law reforms as the Christchurch shootings had raised legitimate concerns.
New Zealand, a country of only 5 million people, has an estimated 1.5 million firearms. The minimum age for a gun license is 16, and 18 to own a semi-automatic weapon.
A Radio New Zealand report, based on police data secured through an Official Information Act request, said more than 99 percent of people who applied for a firearms licence in 2017 were successful.
A New Zealand standard A-category firearm licence is issued after a police and background check. No licence is required to buy a large round magazine, which can be illegally modified for use in such a weapon.
Only firearm owners are licensed, not weapons, so there is no monitoring of how many weapons a person may possess.