Sweeping gun bans that New Zealand sought to pass in the aftermath of its deadliest shooting last month were formally signed into effect on Thursday by the country’s governor general.
The Associated Press reports after a man used semi-automatic rifles and shotguns to kill 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, Governor General Patsy Reddy signed the law banning the weapons.
Local police forces subsequently announced they would be conducting a gun buyback program for the now-banned weapons.
“For people who find themselves now in possession of a prohibited firearm, we ask you to please notify us,” Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Clement said via the Associated Press. “The collection of firearms will occur at a later stage.”
He continued: “For now, there is an amnesty in place and we ask people to please notify us [if they have these banned weapons].”
The penalty for those law-abiding citizens that were stripped of their right to possess the firearms is serving up to five years in prison.
According to the report, New Zealand’s national legislature voted 119 to 1 to ban the weapons.
“The Government acted quickly to change New Zealand’s firearms laws and Police is now responsible for implementing and enforcing these new laws,” the police deputy commissioner reportedly said in response.
BBC reports member David Seymour was the sole member who opposed the bill:
David Seymour, leader of the ACT party, was the only MP to come out against the bill, although he did not oppose the proposed changes to gun laws.
He said the bill was “not an attempt to improve public safety” but “an exercise in political theatre”.
He said he believed the rush to put the bill through the house had made the law worse than doing nothing.
During the bill’s final reading, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recalled details of her trip to the Christchurch Hospital where she visited the victims of the March 15 massacre.
“I struggle to recall any single gunshot wounds,” Ardern said. “In every case they spoke of multiple injuries, multiple debilitating injuries that deemed it impossible for them to recover in days, let alone weeks. They will carry disabilities for a lifetime, and that’s before you consider the psychological impact. We are here for them.”
She continued: “I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could be obtained legally in this country.”
Here’s more, also from the Associated Press:
Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.
Ardern said lawmakers had a responsibility to act on behalf of victims of the shootings.
“We are ultimately here because 50 people died and they do not have a voice,” she said. “We in this house are their voice. Today we can use that voice wisely.”
“We are here just 26 days after the most devastating terrorist attacks created the darkest of days in New Zealand’s history,” she said. “We are here as an almost entirely united Parliament. There have been very few occasions when I have seen Parliament come together in this way and I cannot imagine circumstances where that is more necessary than it is now.”
Ardern said that there was some opposition from firearms owners, but that the response to the proposed legislation was overwhelmingly positive.
“My question here is simple,” she said. “You either believe that here in New Zealand these weapons have a place or you do not. If you believe, like us, that they do not, you should be able to believe we can move swiftly. “An argument about process is an argument to do nothing.”