Viet Nam News
WELLINGTON — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacindab Ardern announced an immediate ban on the sale of assault rifles and semi-automatics on Thursday in a muscular response to the Christchurch terror attack that killed 50 people.
"Today I am announcing that New Zealand will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons. We will also ban all assault rifles," Ardern said, while announcing interim measures that will stop a rush of purchases before legislation is enacted.
"The effect of this will mean that no one will be able to buy these weapons without a permit to procure from the police. I can assure people that there is no point in applying for such a permit," she said.
She added that high capacity magazines and devices similar to bump stocks -- which make rifles fire faster -- will also be banned.
"In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country," she said.
For the guns that are still out there, Ardern announced a buyback scheme that will cost between Nz$100 million and $200 million (between US$69 million and $139 million), depending on the number of weapons received.
To "the current owners of the weapons we have moved to ban, I acknowledge that many of you will have acted within the law," Ardern said.
"In recognition of that and to incentivise their return, we will be establishing a buyback scheme."
Anyone who keeps the guns after an amnesty period will face fines of up to $4,000 and three years’ in jail.
Ardern brushed aside suggestions of opposition to the ban.
"The vast majority of New Zealanders will support this change. I feel incredibly confident of that," she said.
New Zealand police on Thursday said that all 50 victims of last week’s terror attack in Christchurch had now been identified, allowing burials to take place.
"I can say that as of a few minutes ago the identification process and to all 50 victims has been completed and all of the next of kin have been advised," said commissioner Mike Bush. "That is a landmark for this process."
New Zealand police and tradesmen are working intensively in the hope of readying the Al Noor mosque to hold Friday prayers, just a week after it was the centre of the racist shooting.
"Police have been working relentlessly, doing everything in our power to gather all appropriate evidence from what are active crime scenes so we can allow people to return to the mosques as quickly as possible," a police spokesman said, referring to Al Noor and a second mosque in Christchurch attacked by the gunman.
An army of carpenters, glaziers, gardeners and carpet layers could be seen entering the Al Noor grounds on Thursday and the police spokesman said they were trying to return the mosque to its original state.
The areas around the mosques remained cordoned off and guarded by armed police, but the spokesman said they were working "to allow the Muslim community back into the mosque on Friday for Friday prayers".
Christchurch man Jatinder Saggar has issued a public invitation for people to join him for Friday prayers with more than 2,600 indicating support on his Facebook page.
If the mosque is not ready, the Friday prayers will be held across the road in the spacious Hagley Park.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called for the nation to observe two minutes of silence on Friday and said the call to prayer would be broadcast live by the state-owned radio and television in a show of support for the Muslim community.
New Zealand women were also being encouraged to wear headscarves as a gesture of solidarity with Muslims on Friday, the Muslim holy day.
"We are going to pray here on Friday," the Imam Gamal Fouda told the New Zealand Herald from behind the cordon opposite the mosque.
"We will never forsake it to please those people who actually attacked us," he said.
Linwood mosque Imam Alabi Lateef Zirullah said his congregation will join the Friday prayer at Al Noor.
Sagger said the people answering his call to prayer would form a human wall outside the mosque.
"If the mosque isn’t open, we will make the circle opposite the mosque in the cricket grounds, Hagley Park," he said.
Police said they would continue to maintain a presence at both mosques when they reopen "for the public’s reassurance and safety". — AFP