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Bill to tighten New Zealand's gun laws passes by 119 votes to one

One MP had wanted to stall the legislation but missed his chance when he arrived late after spending too long explaining his plan to the media.

Police acting superintendent Mike McIlraith shows New Zealand lawmakers an AR-15 style rifle similar to one of the weapons a gunman used to kill 50 people at two mosques.
Police acting superintendent Mike McIlraith shows New Zealand lawmakers an AR-15 style rifle similar to one of the weapons a gunman used to kill 50 people at two mosques.
Image: Nick Perry/AP/Press Association Images

NEW LEGISLATION TO tighten New Zealand gun laws in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings drew overwhelming support when it was introduced to parliament today.

Lawmakers voted by 119 to one in favour of the bill, which bans military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) rifles like those used in the terror attack on 15 March where a white supremacist killed 50 people. 

Police Minister Stuart Nash said the attack by accused gunman Brenton Tarrant showed current firearms restrictions were inadequate.

“Far too many people in this country have access to these dangerous firearms for no legitimate purpose, but at significant risk to the public,” he said.

The sole holdout against the legislation was David Seymour, a conservative whose ACT Party has a single seat in parliament.

Seymour criticised the speed with which his colleagues were handling the legislation, fast-tracking a process that usually takes months so that the law will take effect by the end of next week.

“It is important that we maintain our tradition of sober, robust law-making at all times, but especially now,” he said in a statement.

“The best way to show defiance in the face of terrorism is to refuse to erode our democratic institutions.”

Seymour had intended to try to stall the legislation in parliament but missed his chance when he arrived in the chamber late after spending too long explaining his plan to the media.

‘Compelled to act quickly’ 

Nash was unapologetic about the hurried timetable for outlawing MSSAs, which will see the ban put to the vote twice more before it would formally become law.

“We don’t ever want to see an attack like this in our country again,” he said.

We are compelled to act quickly.

Further curbs — potentially including a gun register, tighter vetting and stricter gun storage rules — are set to be passed by the end of the year.

New Zealand has about 1.5 million privately owned firearms, or 0.3 per person, including an estimated 13,500 MSSAs.

The government has also said it will review laws dealing with hate speech.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern previously said a government plan to buy back semi-automatic firearms would cost from $100 to 200 million (about €60 million to €120 million).

However, deputy prime minister Winston Peters today told Radio NZ the plan could cost up to $300 million (€180 million). 

It could cost, – and this is an extravagant statement but it may well be true – it could cost up to $300 million to set what is wrong, right.

Ardern has also called for action by social media giants after the alleged gunman livestreamed the atrocity online.

Largest criminal investigation in New Zealand’s history 

Ardern has ordered a judicial inquiry into whether intelligence services could have prevented the attack.

Nash said the largest criminal investigation in New Zealand’s history is now probing the country’s worst ever mass shooting.

“Dozens of specialist police investigators, supported by Australian federal and state police, are following up concerns about a number of high-risk individuals,” he told parliament.

As we meet today, a number of people are before the courts for trying to promote hateful publications and videos of death; for unlawfully possessing weapons; for making threats against our citizens, and for murder.

Tarrant was apprehended soon after the attack and the 28-year-old Australian is due to appear in Christchurch High Court on Friday via video link from an Auckland prison.

© AFP 2019 , with reporting by Órla Ryan

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