New Zealand outlines strict new gun controls | News | DW | 01.04.2019
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New Zealand outlines strict new gun controls

New Zealand has announced details of its ban on military-style semi-automatic guns. Owners of certain firearms — and accessories used to make weapons more deadly — will still have several months to hand them in.

The owners of most semi-automatic weapons in New Zealand will be required to surrender their weapons by September, according to details published on Monday.

The New Zealand government's swift decision to make dramatic changes to gun laws after the deadly Christchurch mosque attacks have received widespread praise, and some criticism.

What's in the gun bill?

·    The ban applies to semi-automatic weapons and "military-style" semi-automatics (MSSAs).

·    It prevents people from owning parts, magazines and ammunition that can be used to assemble prohibited weapons.

·    It bans semi-automatic shotguns that can be fitted with detachable magazines, and pump-action shotguns that hold more than five rounds.

·    The law wouldn't include weapons used by farmers and hunters, including semi-automatic .22 caliber or smaller guns that hold up to 10 rounds.

·    There would be an amnesty for unlawful items to be handed in by the end of September this year, with a buyback scheme costing up to 200 million New Zealand dollars ($136 million, €122 million).

'A privilege not a right'

New Zealand Police Minister Stuart Nash said the law was aimed at ensuring that incidents like the Christchurch shootings did not happen again, ensuring that legal weapons could not be turned into illegal ones.

Watch video 03:05

Memorial service for victims of mosque attacks

The changes will come into effect by April 12, less than four weeks after the attack by a suspected white supremacist, who opened fire on worshippers in two mosques.

Read more: New Zealand terror attacks: The hero of Christchurch talks

"Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack will be banned," the minister said. "Owning a gun is a privilege not a right. Too many people have legal access to semi-automatic firearms which are capable of causing significant harm."

"The legislation introduced today is not directed at law-abiding firearms owners who have legitimate uses for their guns. Our actions are instead directed at making sure this never happens again," Nash added.

Penalties and offenses

The bill encompasses offenses like using a firearm to resist arrest, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

For possessing a firearm in a public place, an individual could be jailed for seven years.

Read more: Christchurch: The myth of the lone wolf attacker

Importing illegal weapons could mean a five-year sentence, while possessing newly illegal hardware could result in a two-year sentence.

Early & decisive response

Some 200 firearms have already been handed over since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the new ban days after the attack. The speed of the government's action was widely praised.

However, the leader of New Zealand's conservative ACT party, David Seymour, has criticized the speed with which the bill is being passed, arguing that parliament isn't being given enough time to debate it.

One of the country's largest gun retailers, Hunting & Fishing, voluntarily stopped the sale of MSSAs and halted the selling of firearms online in the wake of the attack.

rc/jil (ap/afp)

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