CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – The New Zealand government said on Monday it will soon announce a reform to the arms law following the Christchurch attack, which left 50 dead and 50 wounded, and also set up a commission to review the response of authorities before the attacks.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that her cabinet had agreed in principle to the content of the reform and that it will be announced within 10 days.
“This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” Ardern said at a press conference.
Ardern said that the authorities would be analyzing behavior patterns that usually precede such incidents, including their possible fallouts and added that New Zealand will maintain its terror threat level at “high.”
She also pointed out that many New Zealanders are now questioning the easy availability of semi-automatic weapons in the country.
Ardern stressed that Friday’s attacks had “exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws,” and that the entire government agreed on the need to make changes, including its coalition partner, New Zealand First, which was initially opposed to it.
She added that the reform was not directed against gun owners, particularly in rural areas, but encouraged those who have guns at home to hand them over to the police.
“I know that this might for a short period create a small degree of uncertainty among gun owners, including those who possess guns for legitimate reasons – particularly acknowledge those in rural communities. The work that we are doing is not directed at you,” she said.
“If you’re thinking about surrendering your weapon, I would encourage you to do so,” Ardern said.
“I have seen reports that people are in fact already doing this. I applaud their effort,” she added.
The prime minister further said that a commission will review the series of events that preceded the attack, including visits and activities in the country of the Australian shooter Brenton Tarrant and the performance of several state security and intelligence agencies.
She also urged all heads of social networks to take steps to prevent incitement of hatred and violence, after Tarrant broadcast live on Facebook the attack in the first mosque.
Ardern said that Facebook and Instagram will continue to withdraw images of the attack.
Facebook withdrew 1.5 million videos worldwide, including 1.2 million that were blocked after they were uploaded, 24 hours after the attack.
“I would call on our social media platforms to demonstrate responsibility,” she urged.
Ardern also announced that the government has agreed to hold a national memorial for the victims but the date will be announced later to allow families to mourn this week.