New Zealand’s prime minister vowed Saturday to toughen the country’s gun laws after revealing the alleged shooter behind Christchurch’s mosque attacks had legally bought the five weapons, including two semi-automatic rifles, used in the massacre.
The nation’s firearms laws are lax compared to neighbouring Australia, which enacted a strict gun control regime in the wake of a similar massacre in 1996.
Jacinda Ardern said 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant obtained a “Category A” gun licence in November 2017 which allowed him to purchase the weapons used to mow down worshippers in two Christchurch mosques.
Some of the guns appear to have been modified to make them more deadly, she said, adding that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.
“The mere fact… that this individual had acquired a gun licence and acquired weapons of that range, then obviously I think people will be seeking change, and I’m committing to that,” she told a press conference.
“I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change.”
Ardern confirmed that the suspected gunman and two associates who were also arrested had not been on the radar of any intelligence agencies for extremism.
“I have asked our agencies this morning to work swiftly on assessing whether there was any activity on social media or otherwise, that should have triggered a response. That work is already underway,” she said.
The head of the New Zealand Police Association, Chris Cahill, welcomed Ardern’s comments and said previous attempts to introduce gun controls had failed partly because of diehard opponents to reform.