In a stunning show of efficiency and cooperation, the government of New Zealand announced legislation to ban all semi-automatic weapons on Wednesday, just six days after the attack that killed 50 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.
New Zealand’s gun laws prior to the massacre were already more stringent than those in the U.S. According to Vox, every gun owner in New Zealand is required to have a license. Applicants for a gun license are screened for criminal records, histories of violence, drug and alcohol use, and relationships to dangerous people, among other criteria. They are required to complete a gun safety course and renew their licenses every 10 years. All military-style semiautomatic rifles (MSSAs) in New Zealand were already required to be registered with the government.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on the day of the attacks that her country’s gun laws “would change.” On Monday, her cabinet met and agreed “in principle” to change the law.
“Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” Ardern said Monday.
Now, they have followed through.
“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too,” Arden said in an announcement on Wednesday. “Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics and assault rifles in New Zealand. Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.” She said that this would mean that every semi-automatic weapon used by the Christchurch killer would now be illegal.
New Zealand will enact a gun buyback and amnesty period.
Ardern said the buyback could cost “anywhere between $100m and $200m [about $70 million to $140 million USD]. But that is the price that we must pay to ensure the safety of our communities.”
The weapons have already been reclassified under the new legislation, known as the Arms Act, and will be more difficult to buy.
Ardern also made reference to a similar series of legislative actions taken by Australia after a mass shooting, the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. After a gun buyback by the government, and the banning of automatic weapons, the country hasn’t seen another similar mass shooting.
“When Australia undertook similar reforms, their approach was to allow for exemptions for farmers upon application, including for pest control and animal welfare. We have taken similar action to identify the weapons legitimately required in those areas, and preclude them,” Ardern said.
The new legislation will be introduced in the first week of April. There will be a short period for feedback and changes before the bill is passed.
After the amnesty period, owning semi-automatic guns in New Zealand will incur a fine of NZ$4,000 (about $2,770 USD) and three years of jail time.
This is a display of decisive action that is difficult to imagine from the perspective of the United States, where hundreds of mass shootings have spurred almost no legislative change.