New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ weapons after mosque attacks
The announcement comes less than a week after the killings in Christchurch.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an immediate ban on sales of “military-style” semi-automatic and automatic weapons like the ones used in the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that killed 50 worshippers.
“Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned,” she said.
Ms Ardern’s announcement comes less than a week after the killings, as more of the dead were being buried.
At least six funerals took place on Thursday, including for a teenager and a youth football coach.
Cashmere High School student Sayyad Ahmad Milne, 14, was known as an outgoing boy and the school’s futsal goalkeeper.
Tariq Rashid Omar, 24, graduated from the same school, played football in the summer and was a beloved coach of several youth teams.
In a post on Facebook, Christchurch United Football Club academy director Colin Williamson described Omar as “a beautiful human being with a tremendous heart and love for coaching”.
Linda Armstrong, 64, a third-generation New Zealander who converted to Islam in her 50s, was also buried, as were Hussein Mohamed Khalil Moustafa, 70, Matiullah Safi, 55, and Haji Mohammed Daoud Nabi.
Families of those killed had been awaiting word on when they could bury their loved ones.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said all 50 victims had been identified as of Thursday and their families were being notified.
Investigators also were trying to conclude their work at the two mosques.
“We are working to restore them in a way that is absolutely respectful,” he said.
Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant has been charged with murder.
On Thursday, New Zealand police revealed they inadvertently charged the suspect with the murder of a person who is still alive.
Police charged Tarrant with a single, representative count of murder, but police said they made an error on the charging sheet prepared for Tarrant’s first court appearance on Saturday.
Police said they have spoken with the person incorrectly named on the document and have apologised, and said they would change the charge sheet.
The name of the person on the charging sheet has been suppressed by court order.
Officials have said more charges against Tarrant would likely follow.
Meanwhile, preparations were under way for a massive Friday prayer service to be led by the imam of one of the two New Zealand mosques where worshippers were killed.
Imam Gamal Fouda said he is expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people at Friday’s prayer service, including many who have come from abroad.
He expects it will take place in Hagley Park, a city landmark across from Al Noor mosque with members of the Linwood mosque also attending.
Al Noor workers have been trying to repair the destruction at the mosque, Mr Fouda said.
What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) March 15, 2019
Mr Fouda said that he expects the mosque to be ready to open again by next week and that some skilled workers had offered their services for free.
“The support we have been getting from New Zealand and the community has been amazing,” he said.
Ms Ardern also said she and the Cabinet would work through legal exemptions to the ban, such as for farmers needing to cull their herds but said any exemptions would be “tightly regulated”.
“For other dealers, sales should essentially now cease. My expectation is that these weapons will now be returned to your suppliers and never enter into the New Zealand market again,” she said.
One of New Zealand’s largest gun retailers, Hunting & Fishing New Zealand, said it supports “any government measure to permanently ban such weapons”.
“While we have sold them in the past to a small number of customers, last week’s events have forced a reconsideration that has led us to believe such weapons of war have no place in our business — or our country,” chief executive Darren Jacobs said in a statement.
Regardless of the ban, the company would no longer stock any assault-style firearms of any category and would also stop selling firearms online, he said.
Polly Collins, 64, of Christchurch, was thrilled to hear of Ms Ardern’s announcement as she visited a flower memorial for the victims.
“The prime minister is amazing,” she said.
“It’s not like in America, where they have all these things and then they go ‘Oh yeah, we’ll deal with the gun laws,’ and nothing’s done.”