Just days following an attack on two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques that killed 50 people, the country's prime minister announced the country is banning all assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and military-style rifles.
During a live television announcement broadcast Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the ban would go into effect immediately, with legislation backing the ban coming next month. She told citizens in New Zealand that they should begin preparing to turn in the weapons that would be banned by the new law.
"On March 15, the nation witnessed a terrorist attack that demonstrated the weakness of New Zealand's gun laws," said Ardern. "The guns used in this attack had the power to shoot continuously. The times for the easy availability of these weapons must end. And today, they will."
"We just want the guns back. ... It's about all of us. It's in the national interest, and it's about safety," she added.
The man accused of attacking two Christchurch mosques used two legally purchased semi-automatic rifles that had been modified with 30-round magazines. That turned the rifles into a "military-style semi-automatic weapons."
An amnesty will be in place for all weapons handed in by citizens and a buyback program for banned weapons is being facilitated by New Zealand's cabinet. Some exemptions for hunters and farmers will be put into place, but they will be "tightly regulated."
"I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride," Ardern said.
New Zealand isn't the first country to ban these types of rifles. In 1996, Australia banned semi-automatic weapons after the Port Arthur massacre in which 35 people were killed. Britain also overturned its gun laws in 1996 after a man used a handgun to kill 16 children and their teacher at a school in Dunblane, Scotland.
Gun owners in New Zealand must have a licenses, but the weapons themselves do not need to be registered with the authorities. The suspect in the mosque attacks last week had a license to carry, Ardern said.
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