New Zealand launches buy-back scheme for guns banned in wake of Christchurch attack

Owners will have until 20 December to hand in their weapons

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says gun laws will change

New Zealand has launched a six-month buy-back scheme for semi-automatic weapons banned in the wake of the deadly Christchurch mosque shootings.

More than $208m New Zealand dollars (£108m) has been set aside to compensate owners of the powerful weapons after a ban was agreed by parliament in April, just weeks after the shootings.

Parliament passed the gun reform law – the first substantial changes to the country’s gun laws in decades – by a vote of 119 to 1.

The vote came about three months after 51 people were killed and dozens injured in the gun attack. Semi-automatic rifles were used, with officials believing they had been modified to include high-capacity magazines that can carry more bullets.

The new extensions to existing gun laws prohibit 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.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, is accused of attacking the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch.

He is charged with the murder of 51 people, 40 counts of attempted murder and one terrorism charge in New Zealand’s deadliest peacetime mass shooting. Mr Tarrant has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is set to face trial next year.

“The buy-back has one objective – to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation,” minister of police Stuart Nash, who launched the new scheme with finance minister Grant Robertson, said.

Owners of the weapons will be compensated up to 95 per cent of their original value, depending on their condition. They will have until 20 December to hand in their weapons.

“Police have detailed plans in place for the next step, which is the collection of firearms from the community. It will be a huge logistical exercise and is expected to get under way in mid-July,” Mr Nash said.

Police have estimated that around 14,300 military style semi-automatic weapons will be banned under the new legislation, although the government said it is difficult to predict the exact number. Earlier this year the government said a record of licenses show 13,500 firearms are military style semi-automatics (MSSAs).

Officials have said that the total cost of the buy-back scheme is also difficult to estimate.

“There is high uncertainty around any [costs], owing to the lack of information on the number of prohibited items, their type and condition,” Mr Robertson said. He added that more accurate estimates will be available once the scheme was fully under way. The New Zealand government has said it would add to the funds available if needed.

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Almost 700 weapons had already been handed in before the compensation scheme was launched and almost 5,000 have been registered by owners for collection by police.

New Zealand is home to an estimated total of 1.5 million firearms among its population of five million, according to the Small Arms Survey. That means the country has the 17th highest rate of civilian firearm ownership in the world.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Monday that she expects the government to announce plans for a second arms amendment bill to tackle issues regarding a gun registry in the next few weeks. Currently New Zealand has no law requiring people to register firearms, although there previous gun laws had a provision for a standard “A-category” gun license covering semi-automatics limited to seven shots.

Reuters contributed to this report

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