Some New Zealanders are voluntarily giving up their guns after a mass shooter killed 50 Muslims last week.
The move comes as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already pledged to strengthen the country’s gun laws.
Ardern has said she supports a ban on semi-automatic weapons and that cabinet has made in-principle decisions to change gun laws, which she will announce in about a week.
“Part of ensuring the safety of New Zealanders must include a frank examination of our gun laws,” she said in the wake of the shooting.
Some are beating the country to the ban, including a farmer named John Hart, who tweeted about his decision.
“Until today, I was one of the New Zealanders who owned a semi-automatic rifle,” he said. “On the farm, they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my circumstance doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse.”
Hart tweeted that he doesn’t believe his country needs guns and that he had dropped it off at the police station.
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Several others in New Zealand have done the same.
One user explained that although they had owned a firearm for 31 years, returning it after Friday’s massacre was “one of the easiest decisions” to make.
Popular store Hunting & Fishing New Zealand also posted on Facebook, saying it would be removing military-style assault weapons from its locations across the country.
“As far as we are concerned, they will never return,” the Facebook post read.
“Irrespective of gun law changes now or in the future, Hunting & Fishing New Zealand stores will no longer stock military-style assault firearms of any classification or category — whether rimfire, shot shell and centrefire configuration,” it added.
The company encouraged other retailers to follow suit.
New Zealand, a country of only five million people, has an estimated 1.5 million firearms. Still, violent crime is rare in New Zealand, and police do not usually carry guns.
Friday’s mosque attacks were New Zealand’s deadliest shooting in modern history.
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Prior to that, the worst occurred in 1990 in a small town of Aramoana, when gunman David Gray killed 13 people.
The incident ignited a tightening of the country’s 1983 gun laws, which were amended in 1992. The laws have remained largely unaltered since then.
Current gun laws
The current laws state that “every civilian in possession of a firearm must hold a current firearm licence, renewable every 10 years,” Philip Alpers, founding director of GunPolicy.org, told Global News.
Obtaining a gun licence requires passing a background check and safety training.
The minimum age for gun ownership in New Zealand is 16 years old and 18 years old for military-style semi-automatic firearms, according to GunPolicy.org.
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An unlicensed person, however, may be “in possession of a firearm or ammunition if they are under the immediate supervision of a licence holder,” the U.S. Library of Congress points out.
This means that citizens are not allowed to possess “handguns, military-style semi-automatic weapons or fully automatic firearms” without a permit to purchase and a relevant firearm licence.
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While gun owners do need permits to possess the weapons, Alpers said that New Zealand does not track ownership of long guns, like shotguns and rifles, which make up 96 per cent of the country’s firearms.
This lack of a formal registry means that it’s hard to keep track of how many guns a person may have. There is also no limit on how many shotguns or rifles a person can possess.
— With files from Global News reporter Laura Hensley, Reuters