New Zealand is passing its gun reform bill less than a month after the deadly shootings at two Christchurch mosques.
Rabat – New Zealand’s Parliament voted almost unanimously on Wednesday to reform the country’s gun laws, less than a month after the devastating Christchurch massacre, in which a terrorist shot and killed 50 people in two mosques.
The country’s governor-general must grant the bill royal assent, at which point it could come into force as law as early as Friday.
The gun reform bill, the first substantial change to New Zealand gun law since 1983, passed with 119-1 votes.
The bill bans the circulation and use of semi-automatic firearms, the parts that convert regular firearms into semi-automatic ones, magazines over a certain capacity, and some shotguns.
Members of Parliament emphasized the implementation of a buy-back scheme which will keep gun owners from bearing the financial burden. The bill grants gun owners amnesty until September 20 to surrender the prohibited weapons. After this date, those found to be breaking the new law will face between two and 10 years in prison.
A lone gunman carried out the Christchurch terror attack on March 15, using semi-automatic guns to kill 50 people in two of the city’s mosques.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called March 15 the “darkest of days in New Zealand history.” She announced a ban on the sale of military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles just six days after the massacre. Ardern also announced plans to tighten gun laws, a goal she accomplished in part with the passage of the reform.
The government has already begun working on another arms amendment bill. The bill, which lawmakers hope to introduce in June, will address issues like the introduction of a gun registry.
The sole dissenting voice in Parliament was David Seymour, a representative of the libertarian ACT Party. Seymour said he felt the process was rushed, saying the bill was “not an attempt to improve public safety” but “an exercise in political theatre.”
Despite Seymour’s dissent, New Zealand’s Parliament was nearly unanimous in agreement on the country’s need for the bill.
During her address to Parliament, Ardern said that the sense of unity was necessary:
“We are ultimately here because 50 people died, and they do not have a voice. We in this house are their voice, and today, we have used that voice wisely.”