News | International
26 Mar 2019 17:43
NZCity News
NZCity CalculatorReturn to NZCity

  • Start Page
  • Personalise
  • Sport
  • Weather
  • Finance
  • Shopping
  • Jobs
  • Horoscopes
  • Lotto Results
  • Photo Gallery
  • Site Gallery
  • TVNow
  • Dating
  • SearchNZ
  • NZSearch
  • RugbyLeague
  • Make Home
  • About NZCity
  • Contact NZCity
  • Your Privacy
  • Advertising
  • Login
  • Join for Free

  •   Home > News > International

    New Zealand's gun control laws scrutinised after Christchurch mosque shootings

    The mass shooting in Christchurch has sparked a promise of immediate changes to gun laws in New Zealand, which has almost double the number of firearms per person compared to Australia, and no ban on semi-automatic military-style weapons.

    New Zealand currently has about one firearm to every four people and no ban on semi-automatic military-style weapons, but that could all change in the wake of the mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques.

    Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Australian suspect, identified as Brenton Tarrant, had licences for the two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm he allegedly used during the terrorist attack that left 50 dead.

    She also said he was not on any watchlists prior to the attacks.

    Ms Ardern flagged immediate changes to the nation's firearms laws, saying: "I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change."

    Security expert John Battersby, from Massey University in Wellington, said until now the country had no ban on semi-automatic military-style weapons.

    "Yes, we have a tough licensing system, but we lack the register that Australia has," Dr Battersby said.

    "We actually probably don't know how many legal firearms there are in New Zealand and we certainly don't know how many illegal firearms there are.

    "How these individuals have got hold of these weapons, that's going to be a big question."

    Before Ms Ardern's announcement, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark told the ABC that while the country had gun control, there was room for improvement.

    "We do have gun control. People have to be fit and proper persons to have guns. But undoubtedly, the law can be strengthened and improved," she said.

    "Personally, I would be surprised if the New Zealand Parliament didn't accept that challenge head-on to strengthen the law.

    "I think we could do better, and a tragedy like this brings that forward as a priority."

    Counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton, from Deakin University, said there were questions to be asked about how Tarrant was allegedly able to gain access to certain weapons.

    "New Zealand doesn't have a gun register, so in that sense many people have for years been calling for a gun register and tighter control," he said.

    "You would have thought getting an assault rifle was very hard, not like it is in America where it's very easy.

    "How could that have happened? Was it a freak occurrence or was it fairly easy to do?"

    How many guns are there?

    New Zealand has almost double the number of guns per person compared to Australia — around one weapon for every four people.

    The Small Arms Survey estimated New Zealand possessed 1.2 million guns for its 4.6 million population as of last year (although some media reports estimate it could be as high as 1.5 million).

    That compares to Australia's 3.5 million guns for 24.6 million people — around one weapon for every eight.

    By comparison, for every 100 people in the United States there are 120 guns — more than one per person.

    New Zealand ranks 18th in the world for the rate of civilian gun ownership, the Small Arms Survey said, higher than Kosovo, Pakistan and Iraq.

    'The difference one weapon can make'

    Professor Barton said the Christchurch gunman's weapon resembled an AR-15 — the assault rifle used in a number of US massacres, including the Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people in 2017.

    "The attacker was using a couple of guns, one was a shotgun, one was an AR-15 — that's the so-called civilian equivalent of the M-16. It's an assault rifle," he said.

    "What we saw was disturbing effectiveness in cold-blooded shooting, murderous shooting, which is why we now have 49 dead, perhaps even more to come.

    "That shows the difference that one weapon can make.

    "We haven't seen these assault weapons used in Australia and New Zealand.

    "I think now we've got to face the fact that they're at large."

    How do our laws compare?

    According to, run by Philip Alpers, a firearms analyst at The University of Sydney, Australia has the tightest gun control policies in the Pacific region, while New Zealand's laws are considered more lax.

    "Among developed nations it stands alone with the United States as the only two countries without universal gun registration," he said.

    Australia and New Zealand both have strict licensing around firearms, but most weapons aren't registered with the police in New Zealand.

    In Australia it's illegal to have an unregistered firearm, and the government severely restricted automatic and semi-automatic weapons following the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.

    In New Zealand, you can apply for a firearms licence at 16 years or older to use shotguns and rifles for things like sport and hunting.

    Self-defence is not considered an adequate reason for owning a gun in New Zealand.

    Upon application for a licence, there are police background checks, firearms safety training, and follow-up police interviews.

    New Zealand civilians can possess a military-style semi-automatic firearm if they are over 18 and have an additional special permit from police — they must be registered and there are special storage requirements.

    But some media reports highlight concerns that unregulated add-ons could easily convert basic, unregistered weapons to be used like semi-automatics.

    In 2015, a New Zealand journalist purchased a gun online without a licence, ostensibly in a bid to highlight loopholes in online gun buys.

    One New Zealand gun shop, Gun City, came under scrutiny for selling and promoting the AR-15 in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting in the US.

    'Missed opportunity'

    Eighteen months ago, in October 2017, New Zealand's Police Association president Chris Cahill lamented the "missed opportunity" to reform gun laws, after Police Minister Paula Bennett rejected 12 of 20 recommendations from a select committee inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms.

    "It's very frustrating the opportunity was missed earlier this year [2017], and you know what it's going to take to bring it on the table again, and unfortunately that's a tragedy," he told at the time.

    Ms Clark said that Ms Ardern would "want to leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of this, and to know what New Zealand needs to do better to stop it ever happening again".

    "This is not the New Zealand we know and love," she said.

    "We don't see ourselves as a people who would ever accept such attitudes or such horrors in our community."


    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

     Other International News
     26 Mar: What happens to the election promises in your seat if the Government hasn't won it
     26 Mar: China hails 'historic' Europe trip as Xi signs billion-dollar deals with France, BRI with Italy
     26 Mar: Mueller report has given Donald Trump new zeal, as Democrat pivot to Plan B
     26 Mar: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern announces royal commission into Christchurch shootings
     25 Mar: Nick Kyrgios exchanges words with spectator during Miami Open third-round match
     25 Mar: Bohemian Rhapsody premieres in China — but without any references to Freddie Mercury's homosexuality
     25 Mar: NSW election result confirmed, Gladys Berejiklian's Coalition wins 47th seat
     Top Stories

    Tom Robinson's taking his impressive start to the Blues season in his stride More...

    Dame Jenny Shipley is heading back to court, in the legal case over the collapse of Mainzeal More...

     Today's News

    Law and Order:
    The final closure of a chapter... but the impacts live on 17:37

    Rugby League:
    Nathaniel Roache will miss another week of the NRL with the Warriors 17:27

    What happens to the election promises in your seat if the Government hasn't won it 17:27

    Kate Wright has thrown her step-daughter Tia a pink-themed birthday party 17:16

    Tom Robinson's taking his impressive start to the Blues season in his stride 16:57

    Dame Jenny Shipley is heading back to court, in the legal case over the collapse of Mainzeal 16:57

    Katie Holmes has spent time with “incredible women” in a refugee camp in Greece 16:46

    Health & Safety:
    Nine measles cases have been confirmed in Auckland 16:17

    P. Diddy has praised his late ex-girlfriend Kim Porter for doing a “great job” in raising their children 16:16

    China hails 'historic' Europe trip as Xi signs billion-dollar deals with France, BRI with Italy 15:57

     News Search

    Power Search

    © 2019 New Zealand City Ltd