By Sean Jackson
Following the killing of 51 people in two mosques located in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, a bill was subsequently passed that outlawed most semi-automatic weapons, as well as any modifications that could make a weapon automatic. Directly following the attack, the vote passed through parliament in April resoundingly, with 119 voting yea, and one nay.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government rushed the legislation banning the firearms, setting aside $150 million to implement a buyback program for now illegal firearms. The shooter, who was from Australia, bought the weapons legally and brought them into the country through the correct avenues despite experts initially thinking they had been bought through the black market.
At the time of the shooting, Ardern addressed the shooter bringing the weapons in legally, stating, “I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could be obtained legally in this country. I struggle to recall any single gunshot wounds. In every case the victims spoke of multiple injuries, multiple debilitating injuries that deemed it impossible for them to recover in days, let alone weeks. They will carry disabilities for a lifetime, and that’s before you consider the psychological impact.”
Since the shootings in Christchurch and the rapid implementation of legislation to purchase back illegal weapons, the government has collected 10,242 firearms, and an additional 1,269 handed in under amnesty – meaning no questions asked about how an individual attained the firearm.
So far ninety gun collection events have been held throughout New Zealand. According to police, there have been more than 7,000 firearm owners who attended to hand in their weapons. The New Zealand police commended gun owners who came forward in a statement, saying they were “really happy with the public response.”
While there are many gun owners who willingly hand over their firearms, others have been reportedly stockpiling weapons. According to police, numerous gun clubs have been highly critical of the buyback program, stating that law-abiding gun owners should not be punished for the actions of one individual.
There is currently an estimated 1.5 million firearms in New Zealand among its 4.6 million population, and those in possession of now-illegal weapons have until December 20th to hand them in. If caught in possession of a banned firearm or weapon components individuals could potentially face a prison sentence of two to five years.