New Zealand’s cabinet agreed on measures to tighten gun control laws “in principle” Monday, just days after a deadly mass shooting killed more than 50 people.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said details of the measures would be rolled out before a cabinet meeting next Monday, saying “the time to act is now.”
Ardern also announced an inquiry into Friday’s twin mosque attack in Christchurch, which raised questions about how the suspected terrorist -- a white supremacist -- was not picked up by intelligence agencies.
Although details have yet to be hashed out, the speed of New Zealand’s move has resonated around the world -- particularly in the United States, where reforms have spluttered for decades, and similar debates are re-run after each new mass shooting.
“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.
Shooter bought weapons online
The owner of a New Zealand gun store where the man charged with murder in the mosque shootings had bought firearms and ammunition from online, said they did not sell him the high-powered weapon used in the massacre.
Gun City owner David Tipple said the alleged terrorist 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.
Under New Zealand gun laws, A-category weapons can be semi-automatic but limited to seven shots. Video of a terrorist 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 license holder. He was a brand new purchaser, with a brand new license,” 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 five 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 license in 2017 were successful.
A New Zealand standard A-category firearm license is issued after a police and background check. No license 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.
New Zealand’s top online marketplace Trade Me Group said it was halting the sale of semi-automatic weapons in the wake of Friday’s attack.