The Slatest

New Zealand Parliament Passes Ban on Semi-Automatic Weapons by 119-1 Vote

New Zealand official shows the type of gun banned under the new legislation during a press conference April 11, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand.
Common sense and three weeks is all it takes to effect change in the face of tragedy.
Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Less than a month after a deadly mosque shooting by a white nationalist, New Zealand passed a law Wednesday banning the most types of semiautomatic weapons. Parliament voted 119-1 to make permanent what were temporary restrictions imposed in the aftermath of the shooting that killed 50 people in the city of Christchurch. The law covers military-style semiautomatic weapons, like the AR-15, which used in the Christchurch attack as well as in a number of mass shootings in the U.S., including the Parkland school shooting last year.

The rapid legislative change came not just in response to the tragic shooting, but the fact that the weapons used were bought legally and then modified. “I can recall very vividly the moment I knew that we would need to be here, doing what we are doing right now,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. “I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could have been obtained legally in this country.”

The sole parliamentarian to oppose tightening the country’s gun laws was David Seymour of the right wing ACT Party. In an opinion piece, he criticized the speed at which the changes were made, and made a number of arguments that ought to be familiar to Americans who have heard it all before. “By banning all semi-automatic weapons, the Prime Minister made legal owners of such weapons pay a cost for something they had not done,” Seymour wrote. “Right now, there’s no reason to be confident the ban will make it harder for determined bad people to access dangerous weapons.”

The changes to the country’s gun laws garnered widespread support, however, and did take into consideration the views of the country’s many remote rural communities. “Experts studying New Zealand gun laws say such changes had been recommended to Parliament several times but always met with opposition,” the Washington Post reports. “Four inquiries on gun laws have been undertaken by the New Zealand government in recent years, including one after a 1990 mass shooting that killed 13.”

The government has established a buyback program that will run until Sept. 30, giving gun owners a five-plus month amnesty during which they can hand over any weapons covered by the ban.