New Zealand tightens gun laws again after mosque massacre

Armed police officers stand guard outside the Al Noor mosque during Friday prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand on May 3, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 13 September 2019

New Zealand tightens gun laws again after mosque massacre

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately banned military style semi-automatic rifles after the shootings in March
  • ‘Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right’

WELLINGTON: New Zealand unveiled new legislation Friday aimed at ensuring only “fit and proper” people can own guns in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks that killed 51 Muslim worshippers.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had immediately banned military style semi-automatic rifles after the shootings in March but said further restrictions were needed to target the black market.
“Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right,” she told reporters in Christchurch on Friday.
“That means we need to do all we can to ensure that only honest, law-abiding citizens are able to obtain firearms licenses and use firearms.”
Under the new legislation, a registry will be set up that is designed to track ownership of every legally owned firearm in the country.
The measure also increases the jail term for supplying firearms to an unlicensed person from three months to two years, as well as tightening gun importation and sales.
Police will determine if someone is “fit and proper” to hold a license, with power to exclude anyone promoting extremism, convicted of violent crime or with mental health issues, including attempted suicide.
The register, expected to take five years to complete, will contain details of the estimated 1.2 million firearms in New Zealand, for a population of around five million.
Police Minister Stuart Nash said the existing gun legislation was introduced in 1983 and needed updating.
The alleged Christchurch gunman Brenton Tarrant legally obtained an arsenal of rifles before embarking on the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.
The self-avowed white supremacist is accused of opening fire at two mosques while livestreaming his actions on social media.
He has pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and engaging in a terrorist act.
In addition to the semi-automatic ban, the first round of gun law reforms included a firearms buyback scheme allowing the public to hand in weapons before a six-month amnesty expires.
The Christchurch killings rocked New Zealand and Ardern’s gun reforms have been generally accepted in the South Pacific nation.
There has been some opposition, including from the conservative ACT Party, which said law-abiding firearms owners were not receiving a fair hearing.
“We also oppose a gun register because such an exercise will cost a significant sum of taxpayer money but will not capture the criminals and gang members who hold firearms,” ACT leader David Seymour said.


MH17 probe reveals close ties between Russia, Ukraine rebels

Updated 14 November 2019

MH17 probe reveals close ties between Russia, Ukraine rebels

  • The Joint Investigation Team issued a fresh appeal for witnesses and revealed details of secure communications between Russian officials and rebels

THE HAGUE: An international team of investigators piecing together a criminal case in the July 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine said Thursday that evidence suggests links between Russia and separatists in the region were closer than previously believed.
The Joint Investigation Team issued a fresh appeal for witnesses and revealed details of secure communications between Russian officials and rebels in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) rebel group in eastern Ukraine.
“The JIT has information that indicates that the influence of the Russian Federation extended to administrative, financial and military matters in the DPR,” the team said in a statement, adding that contacts between Russia and the rebels intensified in the first half of July 2014.
“There was almost daily telephone contact between the leadership of the DPR and their contacts in the Russian Federation,” the JIT said. “They spoke with leaders in Moscow, near the border with Ukraine and in Crimea. Communication mostly took place via secure telephones provided by the Russian security service.”
In June, the investigators announced they had charged four people, including three Russians, with murder over the July 17, 2014, downing of Flight MH17. All 298 passengers and crew on board the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight were killed.
The suspects are due to go on trial in a secure courtroom near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in March, though they are not in custody and will likely be tried in their absence.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the downing.
But investigators said their probe revealed that “Russian influence on the DPR went beyond military support.”
The team, made up of detectives and prosecutors from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine, last year said it was convinced that the Buk missile system used to shoot down flight MH17 came from the Russian army’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based in the Russian city of Kursk.
The team said Thursday it is looking for witnesses “who can share information about those who controlled the DPR leadership in Donetsk and commanded the deployment of the Buk” missile system.
“The indications for close ties between leaders of the DPR and Russian government officials raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment” of the missile, the investigators said.