New Zealand Bans Assault Weapons Less Than A Week After Massacre

"This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like," Bernie Sanders commented.

New Zealand imposed a ban on assault weapons Thursday, moving swiftly following the Christchurch massacre and triggering renewed calls from leading American politicians for gun controls in the United States.

Fifty people were killed by a white supremacist in two mosques of Christchurch, the second biggest city of the southern island, who had streamed his attack on Facebook Live

Police announced that all the victims have now been identified, after their families had faced days of anxious waiting to receive the bodies of their loved ones as criminal investigators and pathologists rushed to formally identify each person.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday, rapidly making good on a pledge to tighten the country's gun laws. "Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country," Ardern told a press conference.

Ardern added that high-capacity magazines and devices similar to bump stocks, which can make rifles fire faster, will also be outlawed. Legislation enacting the restriction will be introduced in parliament when it meets in early April, but an interim measure means a ban on new purchases has already been enacted.

"It's a good thing, why would we need to have guns like this in our houses?" Kawthar Abulaban, 54, who survived the shooting at Al Noor mosque told AFP.

"Gun Violence"

Guns are to be handed in and destroyed via a buyback scheme that will cost between Nz$100 million and $200 million (between US$69 million and $139 million), depending on how many are received and their valuations. Conservative estimates indicate some 1.5 million weapons are in circulation in New Zealand, equating to three guns for every 10 people, well below the US ratio of more than one weapon per person.

Proponents of gun control in the United States and around the world praised the move and denounced the powerful US pro-gun lobby on social media. "This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like," Democratic US Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders tweeted, adding:

"We must follow New Zealand's lead, take on the NRA (National Rifle Association) and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States."

High-profile Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez contrasted Ardern's swift action with US failure to enact even modest controls following recurring horrific shootings such as at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, in which 20 children and six school staff died.

"Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can't even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

For a second straight day, in Christchurch, hundreds of mourners gathered under grey skies in the shattered city to lay to rest more of the dead, including a local convert to Islam and an elderly man who died trying to greet his white supremacist killer. Pupils wept and embraced as they said goodbye to 14-year-old Sayyad Milne and 24-year-old Tariq Omar.

"What Struck Me Was The Number Of Graves Waiting "

Sayyad's father John Milne said his son was gunned down while praying at Al Noor, the first of the two mosques attacked. Milne, who was at Thursday's funeral, had previously described his son as "a beautiful boy" and "my special little one" who longed to play for Manchester United. Many came from Cashmere High School, which Sayyad attended alongside fellow victim Hamza Mustafa, a Syrian refugee who was buried Wednesday.

One neighbor of the Milne family said the service was "very respectful, very moving" and attended by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. She said she looked across the cemetery to see that so many more funerals would need to be held in the coming days. "What struck me was the number of graves waiting... and the area they took up," the woman told AFP.

In a rambling "manifesto", Tarrant said he was motivated partly by a desire to stoke religious conflict between Islam and the West.

But people of all faiths in Christchurch have come together to mourn and denounce the killings, with the city festooned in flowers, cards, and tributes.

Konbini with AFP

By Astrid Van Laer, published on 21/03/2019