New Zealand police expect tens of thousands of firearms in guns buy-back scheme

Police cordon off the area in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019. As a result of the attacks, New Zealand's parliament has passed a law encouraging citizens to surrender their firearms. (AFP file photo)
Updated 11 April 2019

New Zealand police expect tens of thousands of firearms in guns buy-back scheme

  • Lawmakers in New Zealand voted to change gun laws following deadly mosque attacks
  • There are about 1.2-1.5 million firearms in New Zealand, according to gunpolicy.org

WELLINGTON: New Zealand police expect tens of thousands of firearms to be surrendered in a guns buy-back scheme after parliament passed tough new firearm laws in the wake of the country’s worst peacetime mass shooting.
Lawmakers in New Zealand voted almost unanimously on Wednesday to change gun laws, less than a month after a lone gunman killed 50 people in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch.
The new legislation bars the circulation and use of most semi-automatic firearms, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatic firearms, magazines over a certain capacity, and some shotguns. This includes the gun used by the suspect in the Christchurch shooting.
It granted an amnesty until Sept. 30 for people to surrender prohibited items. More than 300 weapons had already been handed in, police minister Stuart Nash told parliament.
Police Deputy Police Commissioner Michael Clement told a news conference on Thursday that they are not sure how many guns they would receive as New Zealand has no law requiring people to register firearms.
“Its a great unknown question...everybody appreciates that there is no register of firearms with regards to the type of firearms we are talking about,” Clement said.
“So It could be in the tens of thousands, it could be more,” he added.
There are about 1.2-1.5 million firearms in New Zealand, according to gunpolicy.org. Of these, the government has said that a record of licenses show 13,500 firearms are military style semi-automatics (MSSAs). But the number could be higher.
Clement said details are being worked out of the gun buy-back scheme and he urged gun owners in possession of the prohibited firearms to register online.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has estimated that the gun buy-backs would cost the government between NZ$100-200 million but other government ministers have warned that the costs could be higher depending on how many guns are handed to the police.
Authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, with 50 counts of murder following the Christchurch attacks on March 15.


China reports 1,886 new virus cases, death toll up by 98

A woman, wearing a protective facemask amid fears over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, walks in front of an advertisement board in Bangkok on February 17, 2020 featuring attractions in Thailand. (AFP)
Updated 18 February 2020

China reports 1,886 new virus cases, death toll up by 98

  • Hundreds more have been infected and the virus has sparked panic buying, economic jitters as well as the cancellation of high-profile sporting and cultural events

BEIJING: Mainland China reported 1,886 new virus cases and 98 more deaths for a total of 1,868 in its update Tuesday, following a report that 80% of cases have been mild, prompting guarded optimism from health officials.
The latest figures come after health officials in China published the first details on nearly 45,000 cases of infection with the coronavirus that originated there, saying more than 80% have been mild and new ones seem to be falling since early this month.
A total of 72,436 cases have been reported in mainland China as of Tuesday, although a spike in recent cases was due to a broader definition in the hardest-hit region based on doctors’ diagnoses before laboratory tests were completed.
Monday’s report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention gives the World Health Organization a “clearer picture of the outbreak, how it’s developing and where it’s headed,” WHO’s director-general said at a news conference.
“It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
China may postpone its annual congress in March, its biggest political meeting of the year, to avoid travel while the disease is still spreading. The standing committee for the National People’s Congress will meet Feb. 24 to deliberate on a postponement of the meeting due to start March 5.
The new disease, called COVID-19, first emerged in December in Wuhan, the capital of central China’s Hubei province, and has spread to more than two dozen other countries.
The new study reports on 44,672 cases confirmed in China as of Feb. 11. The virus caused severe symptoms such as pneumonia in 14% of them and critical illness in 5%.
The fatality rate for these confirmed cases is 2.3% — 2.8% for males versus 1.7% for females.
That’s lower than for SARS and MERS, which are caused by two similar viruses, but COVID-19 ultimately could prove more deadly if it spreads to far more people than the others did. Ordinary flu has a fatality rate of 0.1% yet kills hundreds of thousands because it infects millions each year.
The COVID-19 cases include relatively few children, and the risk of death rises with age. It’s higher among those with other health problems — more than 10% for those with heart disease, for example, and higher among those in Hubei province versus elsewhere in China.
Cases seem to have been declining since Feb. 1, but that could change as people return to work and school after the Chinese holidays, the report warns. Beijing has sought to forestall that by extending the Lunar New Year holiday, imposing tight travel restrictions and demanding 14 days off self-quarantine for anyone returning from outside their immediate region.
Hundreds of cases have been confirmed outside China, with a significant number on a cruise ship quarantined at a port near Tokyo.
Japanese officials on Monday confirmed 99 more people were infected on the Diamond Princess, bringing the total to 454. The Health Ministry said it has now tested 1,723 people on the ship, which had about 3,700 passengers and crew aboard. Outside China, the ship has the largest number of cases of COVID-19.
Japan has 518 confirmed cases, including the 454 from the cruise ship, and one death from the virus.
The US evacuated 328 American passengers, with most of them now in a 14-day quarantine at military bases in California and Texas. Fourteen of them have the virus and were taken to hospitals in California and Nebraska.
Any quarantined passengers who shows symptoms of the virus will be taken to a hospital off the base “for containment and specialized care,” according to a statement from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Scott Pauley. The CDC rather than the Department of Defense is responsible for all parts of the quarantine operation.