‘We just want the guns back’: New Zealand announces immediate ban of assault rifles

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New Zealand is banning all assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and military-style semi-automatic rifles in response to the nation’s deadliest massacre in history, the country’s prime minister announced Thursday.

Jacinda Ardern said the ban goes into effect immediately and would be followed by legislation next month. New Zealand’s citizens should make arrangements to turn in weapons banned under the new laws, Ardern told the nation in a live television announcement.

“On March 15, the nation witnessed a terrorist attack that demonstrated the weakness of New Zealand’s gun laws,” Ardern said. “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.”

She added, “We just want the guns back. … It’s about all of us. It’s in the national interest, and it’s about safety.”

Ardern says the alleged shooter in Friday’s attacks at two Christchurch mosques killed most of the 50 people with two legally purchased semi-automatic rifles modified with 30-plus round magazines, “essentially turning them into military-style semi-automatic weapons.”

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She said an amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in by citizens. The New Zealand cabinet will also implement a buyback plan for banned weapons, and there will be “tightly regulated” exemptions for some owners such as hunters and farmers.

“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,” she said. She also noted that gun ownership is “a privilege and not a right” in New Zealand.

Her words were already being put into effect across the nation: The New Zealand government immediately began asking all owners of assault weapons or now-banned attachments to report them to the government in the next two days before turning them in.

Since the attacks, Ardern has led a nation trying to grieve and work through the news of the killings, which, in total, rival the annual number of murders in New Zealand.

On Tuesday, Ardern had told New Zealand’s Parliament that tough gun laws were coming. She also said she would deny the man responsible for the nation’s worst terror attack in modern history the one thing he likely craved: fame.

“He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist, but he will, when I speak, be nameless, and to others I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety but we in New Zealand will give him nothing – not even his name.”

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