New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a national ban on assault rifles and military-style semiautomatic (MSSA) weapons of the kind used in Friday’s terror attack on Christchurch mosques, marking a landmark reform to the nation’s gun laws.
Speaking from Wellington this afternoon, Ardern said firearm retailers will be unable to sell assault rifles and MSSAs from 3pm today, local time. High-capacity magazines and add-ons that can give weapons military-style semi-automatic capabilities will also fall under the ban.
Ardern said an amnesty period will be put in place allowing gun owners to hand their assault rifles and MSSAs into police. The amnesty period will run in conjunction with a government-run buyback scheme with the goal of discouraging what Ardern called a “black market” for the banned weapons.
Gun owners have been advised to fill out buyback forms online before handing their firearms over to police, at which point they will receive a fair market rate for the weapons. Ardern said the government stands ready to invest between NZD $100m and $200m in the initiative.
Ardern said the policy position was inspired by Australia‘s gun law reform and buyback after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people were killed with a semi-automatic weapon.
New Zealand is “trying to learn from the process that they’ve gone though,” she said.
In a press release, the New Zealand government said the ban means an estimated 13,500 weapons legally owned yesterday will be illegal tomorrow. The vast majority of the estimated 1.5 million weapons lawfully owned by New Zealanders will be unaffected by the ban.
“We’ve targeted here the guns that are actually doing the harm in our community and we saw that on Friday,” Ardern said.
The policy announcement comes just days after Ardern announced the nation would enact sweeping reforms faster than Australia did after the Port Arthur shooting.
Ardern indicated a “second tranche” of reforms, focussing on licensing, registration, and storage, is yet to come.