New Zealand Parliament votes to ban semi-automatic weapons

The New Zealand parliament decided to pass the new laws after the Chrsitchurch attacks. (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2019
0

New Zealand Parliament votes to ban semi-automatic weapons

  • The new bill on semi-automatic weapons was passed with a vote of 119 to 1
  • The next step is for the country’s governor general to sign it

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday passed sweeping gun laws that outlaw military style weapons, less than a month after mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch left 50 people dead and dozens wounded.
A bill outlawing most automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banning components that modify existing weapons was passed by a vote of 119 to 1 in the House of Representatives after an accelerated process of debate and public submission.
The bill needs only the approval of New Zealand’s governor general, a formality, before becoming law on Friday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke emotionally during the bill’s final reading of the traumatic injuries suffered by victims of the March 15 attacks, whom she visited in Christchurch Hospital after the shootings.
“I struggle to recall any single gunshot wounds,” Ardern said. “In every case they spoke of multiple injuries, multiple debilitating injuries that deemed it impossible for them to recover in days, let alone weeks. They will carry disabilities for a lifetime, and that’s before you consider the psychological impact. We are here for them.”
“I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could be obtained legally in this country,” she said.
A 28-year-old Australian man, Brenton Tarrant, has been charged in the attacks.
Ardern, who has won international praise for her compassion and leadership since the shootings, was able to win rare bi-partisan support for a bill that makes it illegal to own a military-style semi-automatic rifle. The only dissenting voice was from the libertarian ACT Party, which has one lawmaker in Parliament.
The law includes a buy-back scheme under which owners of outlawed weapons can surrender them to police in return for compensation based on the weapon’s age and condition.
Anyone who retains such a weapon after the law formally passes on Friday faces a penalty of up to five years in prison. Some exemptions have been allowed for heirloom weapons held by collectors or for professional pest control.
Ardern said lawmakers had a responsibility to act on behalf of victims of the shootings.
“We are ultimately here because 50 people died and they do not have a voice,” she said. “We in this house are their voice. Today we can use that voice wisely.”
“We are here just 26 days after the most devastating terrorist attacks created the darkest of days in New Zealand’s history,” she said. “We are here as an almost entirely united Parliament. There have been very few occasions when I have seen Parliament come together in this way and I cannot imagine circumstances where that is more necessary than it is now.”
Ardern said that there was some opposition from firearms owners, but that the response to the proposed legislation was overwhelmingly positive.
“My question here is simple,” she said. “You either believe that here in New Zealand these weapons have a place or you do not. If you believe, like us, that they do not, you should be able to believe we can move swiftly. “An argument about process is an argument to do nothing.”


More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

Updated 15 min 54 sec ago
0

More than 60 dead in South Africa flooding after heavy rains

  • Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday
  • The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban

DURBAN: At least 60 people have been killed and more than 1,000 have fled their homes after heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides along South Africa’s eastern coast, authorities said on Wednesday.
Most of the deaths were in KwaZulu-Natal province. Flooding also killed at least three people in neighboring Eastern Cape province, state broadcaster SABC said.
The rains mainly hit areas around the port city of Durban. Multiple dwellings collapsed in mudslides, said Robert McKenzie, a KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services spokesman.
Rescue workers were digging through collapsed buildings on Wednesday.
Victor da Silva, a resident of the coastal town of Amanzimtoti, said his family managed to evacuate before the floods destroyed their home and cars.
“On Monday, the water was just crazy. And yesterday morning I got here, everything was fine, my garage was still here, the other part of the house was still here, and it just couldn’t stop raining,” Da Silva said. “And then an hour and a half later, everything poof (vanished) because the rain just hasn’t stopped.
Authorities in southern Tanzania ordered evacuations of residents from low-lying areas and the closure of schools and offices ahead of landfall of Tropical Cyclone Kenneth on neighboring Mozambique’s coast on Thursday.
“We’ve decided to evacuate all residents of valleys and other low-lying areas and we advise them to seek refuge at public spaces,” Mtwara regional commissioner Gelasius Byakanwa, told reporters.
Johan Fourie said he fled his home in Amanzimtoti, Kwazulu-Natal, just before part of it collapsed.
“I nearly lost my life, and my neighbor, I believe, is in hospital,” Fourie told eNCA television.
The region had been hit by heavy rains for days, but authorities did not foresee the extent of the downpour late on Monday, said Lennox Mabaso, a spokesman for the provincial Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department.
“As a result, there was flooding and some structures were undermined and collapsed on people,” Mabaso said.
Some people were swept away by the water, he added.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday and was expected in the Eastern Cape in the next few days.
“This is partly what climate change is about, that it just hits when we least expect it,” he said.
Last week, 13 people were killed during an Easter service in KwaZulu-Natal when a church wall collapsed after days of heavy rains and strong winds.