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New Zealand begins first gun buyback collection after Christchurch massacre

| 14.07,19. 02:21 AM |


New Zealand begins first gun buyback collection after Christchurch massacre


The path ahead is long for Jacinda Ardern as she holds her wounded nation together.


Photo: New Zealand MPs voted 119-1 to outlaw military-style semi-automatics after the Christchurch massacre. (AP: Nick Perry)



Photo: Australia's own gun buyback scheme was introduced after the Port Arthur massacre. (Supplied)


New Zealand has started the first of more than 250 gun buyback collections for banned military-style semi-automatic weapons in the wake of the Christchurch mosque massacres.


Police said gun owners were compensated with a total of NZ$433,682 ($413,604), after 169 individuals handed in 224 prohibited firearms.


The firearms collection event was set up just a few kilometres away from where a lone gunman opened fire at two Christchurch mosques in March, killing 51 people.


The Australian man accused of the killings, Brenton Tarrant, is alleged to have used an arsenal of five weapons, including two military-style semi-automatic rifles, in the attacks on two Christchurch mosques.


Mr Tarrant in June pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, as well as 51 counts of murder and 40 of attempted murder.


New Zealand police said they had paid about $200,000 to dozens of gun owners handing in their weapons in the first hours of the buyback event.


In the wake of the worst massacre in modern New Zealand history, MPs voted 119-1 to outlaw military-style semi-automatics, which allow the rapid fire of high-calibre bullets.


The Government is offering money for every gun handed back by a licensed owner, with the total cost of the scheme estimated at NZ$218 million ($207 million).


Chris Cahill from the Police Association said he expects a positive response.


"We needed these semi-automatic assault rifles out of the community, but it's appropriate that people who have had to hand them in are compensated for it," he said.


But Nicole McKee from the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners said the compensation package was not fair and reasonable.


"It happened so quickly that there was no democratic process involved and there were no discussions involved with the community that had been affected," she said.


There are concerns too that farming communities, which rely on firearms for hunting and pest control, will suffer because of the weapons ban.


New Zealand an 'over-gunned' society


Professor Kevin Clements from Otago University told ABC's The World program that general public opinion was "completely in favour" of the measures, despite complaints from gun owners.


The path ahead is long for Jacinda Ardern as she holds her wounded nation together.


"The reality is we've got twice as many weapons per capita as you have in Australia, and six times as many as exists in the United Kingdom," he said.


"So on a per-capita basis New Zealand is a fairly over-gunned society, and those guns kill people, in suicides and homicides and so forth, at the rate of about one a day."


He said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had responded in much the same way as John Howard after the Port Arthur mass shooting.


But he said some in the gun lobby were urging firearms holders not to hand over their weapons and to bury them instead, and that many were disappointed that ammunition would not be compensated.


Some 258 collection events will be held across New Zealand over the next three months, and police expect tens of thousands of guns to be surrendered.


Licensed firearms owners will have six months to surrender weapons that have now been deemed illegal under the scheme, with an amnesty ensuring they will not face prosecution during that period.


After the amnesty expires, possession of prohibited firearms is punishable by up to five years in jail.


Police Minister Stuart Nash said police knew of 14,300 registered military-style semi-automatic rifles and there were an estimated 1.2 million firearms in the community, with the vast majority still legal under the new rules.


ABC/AFP

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