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New Zealand gun buy-back program surpasses 10,000 firearms in a month

How the Christchurch shooting led to sweeping new gun laws in New Zealand
WATCH: How the Christchurch shooting led to sweeping new gun laws in New Zealand

More than 10,000 firearms were handed over to police in New Zealand during the first month of the country’s gun buy-back program.

New Zealand acted swiftly after two mosques in Christchurch came under gunfire on March 15, leaving 51 people dead and dozens more injured.

Parliament moved to reform gun laws within weeks of the massacre, implementing a ban on semi-automatic firearms and setting up the buy-back plan.

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The program began on July 13. As of Sunday, a total of 10,242 firearms were surrendered, police told CNN.

An additional 1,269 were handed in under amnesty, which means the firearms could be surrendered without risk of the owner being questioned about how the now-banned weapons were obtained.

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So far, more than 90 buy-back events have been held across the country. Police said thousands of firearm owners have attended and that they look forward to more “engagement and response” in the coming months.

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Gun owners have until Dec. 20 to surrender semi-automatics, certain parts and magazines and some shotguns to the program for money.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government set aside NZ$208 million (C$177 million) to compensate gun owners for up to 95 per cent of the original cost of the firearms.

She has been praised for her gun reforms in the wake of the Christchurch shooting.

“I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could be obtained legally in this country,” Ardern said at the time.

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It’s estimated that there are about 1.5 million guns in circulation in New Zealand.

Recently, concerns were raised about the prospect of a Gun City “megastore” opening in Christchurch. Local media reported the proposed site is located just one kilometre away from where the first buy-back program was held.

The Christchurch shooting is the country’s worst mass shooting in modern history.

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The accused gunman, Brenton Tarrant, was licensed and purchased four weapons and ammunition legally online from gun retailer Gun City.

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Tarrant is due to stand trial in May. He has pleaded not guilty to 92 charges in connection with the attacks, including the country’s first-ever terrorism charge.

In the meantime, more gun law tightening continues in New Zealand. New legislation was revealed last week that would establish a firearm register and overhaul the licensing system for gun owners.

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Gun owners in New Zealand require a licence but are not required to register guns.

The measures so far have been criticized by some gun owners, many of whom say they own weapons for sport and hunting.

On Aug. 3, a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, claimed the lives of 22 people and injured scores more in the United States. A document being investigated in connection with the possible hate crime case, allegedly written by the man arrested in the attack, showed support for the shootings in Christchurch.

— With files from Reuters