New Zealand re-examining its gun laws after mosque shooting

New Zealand is re-examining its gun laws — particularly when it comes to military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines — in the wake of Friday’s slaughter of 49 worshipers at two Christchurch mosques, according to a new report.

Civilians in New Zealand own about 1.2 million firearms, the 2017 Small Arms Survey reveals. Its per capita rate of gun ownership is higher than Australia’s, but still far below the US, where the survey reveals more than one gun per civilian.

But the problem lies in the fact that the country does not ban the ownership of semiautomatic, military-style assault weapons — and the majority of guns are available for legal purchase through newspaper ads or online, experts told The Guardian.

So anyone aged 16 or over who has an entry-level firearm license can own any number of common rifles and shotguns without needing to have them registered.

This highlights “the disparity between New Zealand gun laws and those of other developed nations,” Philip Alpers, an Australian researcher and founding director of GunPolicy.org, which tracks worldwide gun laws, told the paper.

“New Zealand’s decision not to register 96% of civilian firearms makes it a standout exception, alone with the United States and Canada,” he added.

Debates have recently sparked up across the country about apparent loopholes in the way military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) rifles are legally defined, the paper reported.

Those weapons are supposed to be subject to greater police scrutiny, but guns with slightly different features — but essentially the same capabilities — might not receive the same level of oversight.

It wouldn’t be difficult to transform any rifle into an MSSA — just by adding a larger-capacity magazine, police and firearms enthusiasts told the outlet.

A 1997 police-ordered review of New Zealand gun laws recommended that MSSA rifles be banned and subject to a mandatory buyback — but those recommendations have gone unheeded, Alpers told the outlet.

Forty-nine people were killed and dozens more injured when at least one shooter — identified as 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant — stormed into Masjid Al Noor mosque in the center of the city and opened fire on Muslims who were there for Friday prayers. Another shooting happened a short while later at a nearby mosque in the city.

Tarrant, a personal trainer, described himself as a “regular white man, from a regular family” who was born to a “working class, low-income family.”

He also published a rambling manifesto filled with white supremacist ravings prior to the attack.

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