SYDNEY – New Zealand’s parliament passed on Wednesday a bill seeking to restrict access to semi-automatic weapons mere weeks after a gunman wielding such firearms attacked two mosques, killing 50 people.
The measure was approved with 119 favorable votes and one against during the third and final parliamentary reading of the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill.
“New Zealand stands apart in its widespread availability of weapons of such destructive nature and force,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said while addressing the chamber. “Today, that anomaly ends.”
“We are here just 26 days after the most devastating of terrorist attacks created the darkest of days in New Zealand’s history,” she added. “We are ultimately here because 50 people died and they do not have a voice. We in this house are their voice. Today, we have used that voice wisely.”
The bill now needs to be ratified by Governor-General Patsy Reddy – the representative of Queen Elizabeth II in New Zealand – to come into force.
The legislation is set to permanently enshrine the temporary ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons, all parts that allow weapons to be modified – as was the case in the terror attack – and all high-capacity ammunition magazines that Ardern’s government enacted on March 20.
The only two exceptions contemplated by the bill are commercial pest-control companies and licensed gun collectors, although the latter must remove a part to make the weapon non-operational.
Ardern had called for toughening the country’s gun laws immediately after the March 15 mass shooting in Christchurch – New Zealand’s third-largest city – left 50 dead and 50 injured.
“Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned,” she said a few days after the tragedy.
The sole suspect in the shooting, 28-year-old Australian citizen Brandon Tarrant, had obtained a firearms license in Nov. 2017 after passing all legal requirements.
Tarrant, who live-streamed the attack for 17 minutes on social media and published a long manifesto outlining his far-right, Islamophobic and white supremacist ideology, remains in custody and faces 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges.
He had no previous criminal record.