New Zealand passes law banning most semi-automatic weapons weeks after massacre

New Zealand passes law banning most semi-automatic weapons weeks after massacre

New Zealand's parliament has voted overwhelmingly to ban most semi-automatic weapons, a month after a gunman murdered 50 people in the Christchurch massacre.

The fast-tracked gun reform bill was supported by all but one of 120 parliament's lawmakers after its final reading, but it must receive royal assent from the governor general before it becomes law.

The passage of the bill means temporary restrictions imposed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern six days after the terrorist attacks to prevent New Zealanders from stockpiling guns will now be permanent.

Jacinda Ardern Credit: Getty

Holding back tears, Ardern told parliament on Wednesday that the changes to the law were in place "because of the victims and families," stating she could not have put her hand on her heart and told them "our system and our laws allow these guns to be available and that is okay. It is not."

The 38-year-old leader said police commissioner Mike Bush had told her shortly after the attack on March 15 that the gunman had obtained his arms legally.

TOPSHOT - A young mourner weeps after placing flowers at the police cordon as Police conintue the search of the area close by the Linwood Ave Mosque in Christchurch on March 16, 2019. - A right-wing extremist who filmed himself rampaging through two mosques in the quiet New Zealand city of Christchurch killing 49 worshippers appeared in court on a murder charge on March 16, 2019. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP) (Photo credit should read MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP/Getty Images) Credit: Getty

"I could not, hand on heart, go down and face not just the media, not just the public, but the victims that had been left behind from this terror attack and tell them, hand on heart, that our system and our laws allow these guns to be available and that was okay. Because it was not.

"I made a decision after that briefing that I would go down that day and, without having the chance to question the parliament, know that parliament would be with me, and they were."

Ardern also noted that when she visited injured victims in hospital, none of them had just one gunshot wound.

Protest against New Zealand shooting Credit: Getty

"They will carry disabilities for a lifetime, and that's before you consider the psychological impact," she said. "These weapons were designed to kill, and they were designed to maim and that is what they did on the 15th of March."

The new law bans military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles and states that violators will face five years in prison. However, some semi-automatic guns will still be allowed, including .22 calibre rifles with magazines holding less than 10 rounds, and shotguns with internal magazines that hold no more than five rounds.

All of the weapons used by the Christchurch gunman will be banned, as well as parts and magazines that can convert lower-powered guns to higher-powered versions.

New Zealand shooting victim Credit: Getty

Similar laws have been recommended to parliament numerous times in the past, but they failed to gain support. This includes a proposal made after a mass shooting in 1990, which had previously been New Zealand’s largest, in which a gunman killed 13 people.

Australian Brenton Tarrant - a self-proclaimed white supremacist - faces 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges for the Christchurch massacre.

The attack began at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton at 1:40 pm, and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre at about 1.55pm, with the gunman live streaming the first killings on Facebook.