New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has flagged immediate changes to the country’s gun laws in the wake of shootings at two mosques in Christchurch where 49 people were killed.
- Jacinda Ardern says five firearms were involved in the mosque shootings
- She says the shooter purchased them legally as he had a “category A” gun licence
- New Zealand has attempted to change gun laws three times since 2005
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, Ms Ardern said the Australian man, identified as Brenton Tarrant, suspected of carrying out the terrorist act had used five firearms in the attacks, including two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm.
She said he had been in possession of a “category A” gun licence, obtained during 2017, which allowed him to legally obtain the weapons in December 2017 and that he was not on any watchlists prior to the attacks.
“While work has been done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change,” she said.
“There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change. There are obviously questions being asked of how this person was able to enter the country and undertake this act of terror.”
“I have instructed ODESC (Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination) to report to Cabinet on Monday on these events with a view to strengthening our systems on a range of fronts including, but not limited to, firearms, border controls, enhanced information-sharing with Australia, and any practice reinforcement of our watch list processes.”
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.”
Ms Ardern said the 28-year-old Australian man charged with murder had based himself in the city of Dunedin prior to the attack.
Ms Ardern said a fourth person who had been arrested while in possession of a firearm on Friday had been released, as they were a member of the public wanting to help authorities.
The two others were still being questioned.
Five-year-old victim transferred to Auckland for treatment
Ms Ardern confirmed two of the 40 people who were being treated for injuries at the Christchurch Hospital were in a critical condition, while a five-year-old child had been transported to Starship Hospital in Auckland.
“I am advised that the hospital is well-equipped and coping well,” she said.
“There are available beds and seven acute theatres for those in need.
“Pathologists from throughout the country have made themselves available, and we have additional pathologists coming in from Australia.”
Ms Ardern praised the police officers and emergency services involved in locking down Christchurch schools and offices, swiftly arresting the suspect, treating victims, and the defence specialists for defusing improvised explosive devices.
“Many of you may have seen the footage of the arrests, and I can only describe it as an act of bravery on behalf of all New Zealanders, and an act that show very little regard for their own personal safety,” she said.
“I also want to acknowledge ambulance staff who many will have seen acting swiftly under horrific conditions, and all medical staff who continue to work with those who are injury.