New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed that her country’s gun laws will change in the aftermath of Friday’s mass shootings at two mosques that killed at least 49 worshippers and left dozens of others injured.
“While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now: Our gun laws will change,” Ardern said at a news conference.
“There were five guns used by the primary perpetrator,” she added. “There were two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns. The offender was in possession of a gun license. I’m advised this was acquired in November of 2017. A lever-action firearm was also found.”
Ardern said the primary suspect, an Australian citizen charged with murder, obtained a gun license in November 2017 and began legally purchasing his guns a month later. She said authorities will probe the purchases as well as his travel in and out of the country.
Prior to Friday’s shooting, the country’s most deadly mass shooting came in 1990, when a gunman killed 13 people in Aramoana. The incident shined a spotlight on New Zealand’s gun control laws and eventually resulted in a 1992 amendment regulating military-style semi-automatic firearms.
However, observers still judge New Zealand’s gun control legislation to be light compared with other industrial countries outside the U.S. Many guns in New Zealand do not need to be registered, though potential gun owners do need licenses to own firearms and pass a police background check.
Still, gun deaths in the country are relatively low. Figures compiled by the University of Sydney show fatalities from firearms averaged in the dozens each year in the decade leading up to 2015. Those figures translate into one death per 100,000 people, while the U.S. had 12 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017.