NZ to ban military type semi-automatic weapons

In this photo, a police officer carries a gun voluntarily surrendered by a member of the public into the Masterton police station in Masterton, New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand is immediately banning sales of "military-style" semi-automatic and automatic weapons like the weapons used in last Friday's attacks on two Christchurch mosques. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2019
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NZ to ban military type semi-automatic weapons

  • Buy-back scheme costing up to $138 million to be established for banned rifles
  • Ardern said more reforms would cover the firearm registry and licensing

CHRISTCHURCH: New Zealand will ban military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in its worst mass shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.

In the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, Ardern labelled the attack as terrorism and said New Zealand’s gun laws would change.

“On March 15, our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Ardern told a news conference.

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.”

Ardern said she expected the new laws to be in place by April 11 and a buy-back scheme costing up to NZ$200 million ($138 million) would be established for banned weapons.

All military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles would be banned, along with parts used to convert weapons into MSSAs and all high-capacity magazines.

Under existing gun laws, a standard A-category gun license allows semi-automatics limited to seven shots. Live-streamed video of a gunman in one of the mosques showed a semi-automatic weapon modified with a large magazine.

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were killed.

Ardern said that similar to Australia, the law would allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers for pest control and animal welfare.

“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride.”

New Zealand, a country of fewer than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5 million firearms, about 13,500 of them MSSA-type weapons.

Ardern said more reforms would cover the firearm registry and licensing.

Nada Tawfeek, who buried her father-in-law killed in the attacks, Hussein Moustafa, on Thursday, welcomed the ban.

“It’s a great reaction. I think other countries need to learn from her,” Tawfeek said.

Mohammed Faqih, a member of the regligious clergy who flew in from California and attended the funerals for some victims on Thursday, said he was “extremely grateful” for the gun ban.

“I wish our leaders in the States would follow on her footsteps and do the same thing,” he said.

The first victims were buried on Wednesday and burials continued on Thursday, with the funeral of a school boy. A mass burial is expected on Friday.

The bullet-riddled Al-Noor Mosque was being repaired, painted and cleaned ahead of Friday prayers.

Ardern will attend the Muslim call to prayer and a two-minute silence at Hagley Park, opposite the mosque. The call to prayer will be telecast nationally.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand since the attacks. Police said there would be a “heightened presence” on Friday to reassure those attending weekly prayers.

Thousands of worshippers are expected at the Al-Noor Mosque, where the majority of victims died.

Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

Twenty-eight people wounded in the attacks remain in hospital, six in intensive care.


Kremlin says N.Korean leader Kim to meet Putin in Russia on Thursday

This combination of files pictures made on April 18, 2019, shows portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) taken on December 31, 2014 in Moscow, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un taken on February 27, 2019 in Hanoi. (AFP)
Updated 24 min 14 sec ago
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Kremlin says N.Korean leader Kim to meet Putin in Russia on Thursday

  • The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim departed for Russia on Wednesday morning by private train

MOSCOW/VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Thursday in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok to discuss the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, a Kremlin official said.
The visit is part of Kim’s effort to build foreign support after the breakdown of a second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam in February meant no relief on sanctions for North Korea, analysts said.
The summit will be the first between Putin and the North Korean leader. The nuclear row, and how to resolve it, would be the main item on the agenda, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.
“In the last few months the situation around the peninsula has stabilized somewhat, thanks in large part to North Korea’s initiatives of stopping rocket testing and closing its nuclear test site,” Ushakov said. “Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend.”
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim departed for Russia on Wednesday morning by private train.
Kim is accompanied by senior officials including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, KCNA said.
Kim’s chief aide, Kim Chang Son, was seen in Vladivostok on Sunday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
Vladivostok is the closest major Russian city to the short stretch of border that Russia and North Korea share and can be reached from the border by train, Kim’s preferred mode of international transport.
Russia has for years been involved in efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program. It was involved in so-called six-party talks — along with North and South Korea, Japan, the United States and China — that were last held in 2009.
“The United States and the international community is committed to the same goal — the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” a US State Department official said when asked about Kim’s latest summit.
“It is Chairman Kim’s commitment to denuclearization upon which the world is focused,” he said.
The spokesman said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun would also continue their dialogue “to bridge any gaps on the way forward‎.”

’POSITIVE PROGRESS’
South Korea’s foreign ministry said it understood the agenda would include Russia-North Korea relations, denuclearization, and regional cooperation.
“Russia shares our viewpoints such as the achievement of complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and the settlement of permanent peace,” foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said in Seoul.
“I hope that the summit will be an opportunity that contributes to positive progress.”
Kim Jong Un is probably looking to prove that he is still sought after by world leaders after the failed Hanoi summit with US President Donald Trump and that he has more options, said Artyom Lukin, a professor at Far Eastern Federal University.
The North Korean leader did not want to look too dependent on Washington, Beijing and Seoul, he said.
“As for Russia, the Putin-Kim summit will reaffirm Moscow’s place as a major player on the Korean peninsula. This meeting is important for Russian international prestige,” Lukin said.
Putin previously held a summit in Russia with Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, in 2002. Kim Jong Il visited Russia again in 2011, when he was hosted by Dmitry Medvedev, the Putin lieutenant who at the time was serving as Russian president.
Online media that monitor North Korea reported that the venue for the summit would be the Far Eastern Federal University, on an island that is connected to the mainland part of Vladivostok by a bridge.
The bridge was built in time for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Cooperation Summit, which took place on the same site.
The sports complex at the university was closed on Tuesday and workers were seen bringing in pieces of furniture, a Reuters TV crew at the site reported. A white tent had been erected next to the sports complex.
Security guards at the entrance to the campus were stopping and searching vehicles as they drove in. There were no signs of preparation at Vladivostok railway station.
However at Khasan, a Russian settlement where the train line crosses the border, the state flags of Russia and North Korea were fluttering from the station building on Tuesday. A set of mobile steps for alighting from a train was positioned on the platform edge.