New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced late Wednesday that the government has banned the sale of “military-style semi-automatic rifles” and is in the process of ordering a “mandatory buyback” of weapons currently in the possession of New Zealanders.
Ardern announced the plan at a press conference, according to the Washington Times, adding that she believes they are solving the problem of mass shootings by banning weapons like the one used to kill 50 people and wound at least 50 more at two mosques in Christchurch last week.
“We will also ban all assault rifles. We will ban all high capacity magazines. We will ban all parts with the ability to convert semi-automatic or any other type of firearm into a military-style semi-automatic weapon. We will ban parts that cause a firearm to generate semi-automatic, automatic or close to automatic gunfire,” Ardern said.
“In short,” she continued, “every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.”
The move is also the first in a series of legislative changes Ardern plans to institute over the coming months: “more changes to New Zealand’s firearms laws on matters such as licensing, registration and storage would come next week.”
New Zealand already has tight control over what guns are sold and kept. The new law will carve out additional restrictions, though the government says it plans to allow New Zealanders to keep guns they might use for hunting or other “legitimate” purposes.
The Guardian obtained a copy of Ardern’s draft legislation, and reports that the law will focus directly on prohibiting “semi-automatic .22 calibre rimfire firearms with a magazine which holds no more than ten rounds,” as well as “semi-automatic and pump action shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine which holds no more than five rounds.”
The government does face one major problem: it not only wants to ban future sales of these firearms, it wants the existing, privately owned firearms back from law-abiding New Zealand citizens.
Ardern was less specific on exactly how the government plans to collect semi-automatic weapons from the country’s 5 million people, but the Guardian reports that she has directed Parliament to come up with a scheme to “buy back” the weapons for “fair and reasonable compensation.”
Ardern admitted, though, that the government neither knows how many guns New Zealanders own, nor how much needs to be spent to recover them. They estimate that the country’s 5 million people own between 1.2 and 1.5 million guns. The Guardian says the New Zealand government believes around 13,500 of those weapons fall into the “banned” categories.
The “gun buyback” will likely cost the country between $100 million and $200 million, at low estimates.
The full legislation, the government says, is “being drafted,” and is likely to go into effect next month. Parliament must discuss the measure, but Ardern’s people expect the ban to pass easily.
The gun ban and buyback program moved swiftly after the mass shooting, but largely because New Zealand’s leadership is not obligated to protect any right to keep and bear arms, the way the American government is. New Zealand does not have anything resembling a Second Amendment, making gun bans relatively easy to pursue.
American politicians, regardless of their sworn commitment to uphold the full Constitution of the United States, marveled at Ardern’s authoritarinism. Both Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) lavished praise on Ardern on social media, impressed with her ability to take action against guns so swiftly and deciseively.
“This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like. We must follow New Zealand’s lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States,” Sanders tweeted Wednesday night.
“Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market,” Ocasio-Cortez mused. “This is what leadership looks like.”
Sadly for both, the United States does have an enshrined right to personal firearm ownership.