New Zealand tightens gun laws further in response to mass shooting

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand tightened its gun laws on Thursday with a registry that it had promised after a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers last year in the country’s worst peace-time mass shooting.

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This is New Zealand’s second set of gun reforms in the wake of the Christchurch massacre by a suspected white supremacist who murdered his victims with semi-automatic weapons.

Australian Brenton Tarrant has pleaded guilty over the attack and will be sentenced later this year.

The tougher gun laws will take effect next week following the passage of a bill through Parliament on Thursday.

The most significant change is the new firearms registry which licence holders will be required to update as they buy or sell guns.

“The new law is designed to stop firearms falling into the wrong hands. It spells out for the first time that owning a firearm is a privilege, limited to responsible licensed owners,” Minister of Police Stuart Nash said in a statement.

Other changes include prohibiting high-risk firearms like short semi-automatic rifles, tighter rules for gun dealers, and reduced the length of firearms licence from 10 to 5 years for first time licence holders and those who had their licence revoked or allowed it to expire.

The government had near-unanimous support in parliament last year when it passed a law banning military style semi-automatic firearms within weeks of the March 2019 attack.

The second round of changes passed on Thursday faced some resistance, with gun lobbyists and opposition leaders questioning the need for a gun registry.

New Zealand’s efforts on gun control have gained global praise, especially in the United States, where lawmakers in favour of gun control and activists have struggled to address gun violence.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Stephen Coates