New Zealand opens gun buyback after mosque killings

New Zealand authorities outlawed military style semi-automatic rifles after Christchurch shootings. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 June 2019

New Zealand opens gun buyback after mosque killings

  • New Zealand applied stricter gun lows three months after the incident
  • Licensed gun owners have six months to surrender newly outlawed weapons

WELLINGTON: New Zealand opened a gun buyback scheme Thursday aimed at ridding the country of semi-automatic weapons similar to those used in the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed in the hours after the March 15 killings that New Zealand’s gun laws would be tightened and her government has expedited the change in just three months.
“The buyback and amnesty has one objective — to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation following the loss of life at Al-Noor and Linwood mosques,” Police Minister Stuart Nash said.
The Australian man accused of the killings, Brenton Tarrant, is alleged to have used an arsenal of five weapons, including two military style semi-automatic rifles (MSSAs), in the attacks on two Christchurch mosques.
Lawmakers voted to outlaw MSSAs, which allow the rapid fire of high-calibre bullets, by a margin of 119-1 in the wake of the worst massacre in modern New Zealand history.
Licensed firearms owners will have six months to surrender weapons that have now been deemed illegal under the scheme, with an amnesty ensuring they will not face prosecution during that period.
After the amnesty expires, possession of a prohibited firearms is punishable by up to five years in jail.
Compensation will be based on the model and condition of the firearm, with the total cost of the scheme estimated at $143 million.
That includes $11.9 million toward administration costs for what Nash said was “a huge logistical exercise.”
He said police knew of 14,300 registered MSSA rifles and there were an estimated 1.2 million firearms in the community, with the vast majority still legal under the new rules.
Police said they were organizing “collection events” around the country where firearms owners could submit their weapons.
Tarrant last week pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, as well as 51 counts of murder and 40 of attempted murder.
He was committed to stand trial in May next year.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 7 min 46 sec ago

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.