Semi-automatic weapons are now illegal in New Zealand. The national ban on assault rifles and other firearms went into effect at the end of the week – a little more than nine months after the worst mass shooting in the country’s history.
It was March 15th when a gunman opened fire in a pair of shootings at two mosques in Christchurch killing more than fifty people — the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quickly introduced legislation leading to a new level of national gun control in New Zealand. The government started an ambitious gun buyback program — patterned on a similar approach that Australia used in 1996 and 2003.
Other countries have tried gun buybacks — from Brazil to Argentina, along with some cities in the U.S. — Baltimore and Seattle among them.
New Zealand’s buyback program ended on Friday — along with the amnesty provision that was part of it.
Now anyone with a semi-automatic weapon could face thousands of dollars of fines and prison time – as long as five years under certain conditions.
New Zealand Minister of Police Stuart Nash says more than 56,000 weapons have been turned in or modified to make them legal.
Some critics say the program didn’t last long enough, and question how many weapons that are now illegal remain in the hands of private citizens. A spokesperson for a national gun ownership group estimates there are still about 100,000 illegal firearms that have not been collected or modified.
Police say there’s no way to know how many weapons are still out there, but the Minister of Police calls the buyback program “a huge success.”