Christchurch shooting prompts NZ gun control debate

Christchurch shooting prompts NZ gun control debate
Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Stuartyeates, Wikimedia Commons

New Zealand’s cabinet will meet today to discuss stronger gun regulation in the wake of a terror attack killing 50 people at 2 mosques in Christchurch.

During Friday prayers at both Deans Avenue and Linwood mosques, a gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle indiscriminately slaughtered Muslim worshippers. The gunman also live streamed the shooting to social media using a Gopro camera.

An Australian man from Grafton, Brenton Tarrant, has been identified as the gunman in the footage.

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern said that it was clear the attacks had been “well-planned” and that it had been “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called it an “extremist, right-wing terrorist attack” and expressed solidarity with New Zealand.

It was the first time that New Zealand’s national security threat level had been raised to ‘high’.

Many more people in New Zealand own a gun than in Australia, with there being an estimated 1.5 million guns in the country. Shooting is a popular lifestyle activity in New Zealand.

New Zealand also lacks a restriction on semi-automatic firearms.

The military style rifle allegedly used by the shooter, the AR-15, is legally available in New Zealand under a lower-level category A license. It is also believed that the gunman altered the weapon so that it could fire more rounds.

New Zealand gun owners are resisting any strengthening of gun ownership laws, arguing that reactionary policy change may have unintended consequences.

Mrs Ardern is hoping for bipartisan support for gun control reform.

Comparisons have been drawn to the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre in Australia, which famously prompted serious and widespread gun reform.