Christchurch shootings: NZ cabinet backs action on gun laws

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Image caption Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (R) said details of the new gun laws would be outlined within days

PM Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand’s cabinet has backed gun law changes “in principle” after the Christchurch shootings.

Fifty people were killed and dozens wounded in attacks at two mosques on Friday.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, has appeared in court and been charged with murder.

The attacks sparked calls for gun law reform, with Ms Ardern saying soon after that “our gun laws will change”.

Speaking at a press conference after a cabinet meeting, Ms Ardern said she expected to give details of the reforms by 25 March.

“This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” she said.

“We have made a decision as a cabinet, we are unified,” the prime minister told reporters.

Ms Ardern also announced that an inquiry will look into the lead-up to the bloodshed, and what might have been done differently.

Many public vigils have been held across New Zealand over the weekend for the victims of the attacks, and more are planned for this week. Nine people remain in hospital in a critical condition.

At the weekend, Ms Ardern said the suspect had a gun licence, obtained in November 2017, and owned five guns.

Earlier on Monday, gun retailer Gun City said it had sold weapons to the man charged with murder, but not the high-powered weapon used in the mosque shootings.

New Zealand’s Police Association has called for semi-automatic weapons to be banned, Radio New Zealand reported.

Previous attempts to tighten gun laws in New Zealand have failed due to a strong gun lobby and a culture of hunting.

New Zealand’s gun laws

  • The minimum legal age to own a gun is 16, or 18 for military-style semi-automatic weapons (MSSA)
  • There are an estimated 1.5 million privately-owned firearms in the country
  • All gun owners must have a licence but most individual weapons do not have to be registered. New Zealand is one of the few countries where this is the case
  • MSSAs must be registered, but critics say loopholes in the law mean they need only be minimally modified (for example by inserting a low calibre magazine) to evade this requirement
  • Applicants for a firearms licence must pass a background check of criminal and medical records
  • Once a licence has been issued, gun owners can buy as many weapons as they want

More on the country’s gun laws

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