Ardern: time for gun laws to change

Jacinda Ardern says there has been attempts to change New Zealand's gun laws in 2005, 2012 and...
Jacinda Ardern says there has been attempts to change New Zealand's gun laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017 but change was needed now. Photo: Getty Images

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has signalled New Zealand's gun laws "will change" following one of the worst mass shootings in New Zealand's history.

Speaking to media in Wellington this morning, Ardern stressed that "now was the time for change."

She said five guns were used by the primary perpetrator, including two semi-automatic weapons, and two shotguns.

"The offender was in possession of a gun licence," Ardern said.

She said the guns were purchased in December last year.

"While work is being done as to the chain of events that lead to both the holding of this gun licence and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now; our gun laws will change."

The Prime Minister said there had been attempts to change New Zealand's gun laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017.

"Now is the time for change."

Ardern reiterated that three people had been arrested in relation to the attack including one Australian citizen, who will appear at the Christchurch District Court today, charged with murder.

She said he had travelled around the world with "sporadic periods of time spent in New Zealand".

Despite this, the man was not on any watch lists in New Zealand or Australia.

He was not a resident of Christchurch, Ardern confirmed. She said he was currently based in Dunedin.

She said inquiries were being made to assess whether the other two people arrested were directly involved in the incident.

"The fourth person who was arrested yesterday was a member of the public who was in a possession of a firearm, but with the intention of assisting police," Ardern said.

That person had been released, she confirmed.

Ardern said none of the arrested had a criminal history, either in New Zealand or in Australia.

She reiterated that New Zealand's intelligence community and police were focused on extremism of every kind.

"Given global indicators around far-right extremism, our intelligence community has been stepping up their investigations in this area.

"The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community - nor the police - for extremism."

Ardern said she had asked New Zealand's intelligence agencies to "work swiftly" to see if there was any activity on social media or otherwise that should have triggered a response.

Ardern said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) was acting as a liaison point for foreign governments.

She said consular representation for any foreign nations involved had been provided.

"At this stage I understand those involved include Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia."

Meanwhile, Ardern said she had instructed ODESC to report to Cabinet on Monday with a view to "strengthening our systems on a range of fronts" including, but not limited to, firearms, border controls, enhanced information sharing with Australia and any practical reinforcement of our watch list processes.

"I want to come now to what people can expect over the course of the day and beyond. The safety of New Zealanders is our highest priority."

There are an estimated 1.5 million firearms in New Zealand - roughly one for every three citizens.

While that rate pales in comparison to the United States and more than a dozen other countries, it's an eye-popping amount for a country that rarely encounters gun violence, AP reports.

The country's gun roots run deep, going back centuries to when European explorers first sought to conquer the territory as well as to its thriving hunting, farming and sports shooting culture.

It's that culture that has meant fewer restrictions on rifles or shotguns, while handguns are more tightly controlled. And while many other countries - most notably the US - have experienced high rates of gun homicides, New Zealand has been largely immune.

- NZ Herald and AP

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