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New Zealand PM Vows Gun Law Reform, Mosque Massacre Suspect Charged

New Zealand PM Vows Gun Law Reform, Mosque Massacre Suspect Charged

Saturday, 16 March, 2019 - 05:30
An armed police officer stands guard in a perimeter outside Linwood mosque after Friday's gunmen attacks, in Christchurch, New Zealand March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Asharq Al-Awsat
New Zealand's Prime Minister vowed Saturday to toughen the country's gun laws after revealing the alleged shooter behind the mosque attacks had legally bought the five weapons used in the massacre, and saying that he intended to continue the rampage before he was caught by police.

Jacinda Ardern said 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant obtained a "Category A" gun license in November 2017 which allowed him to purchase the weapons used to mow down worshipers in two Christchurch mosques.

Some of the guns appear to have been modified to make them more deadly, she said, adding that a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.

Ardern confirmed that the suspected gunman and two associates who were also arrested had not been on the radar of any intelligence agencies for extremism.

The head of the New Zealand Police Association, Chris Cahill, welcomed Ardern's comments and said previous attempts to introduce gun controls had failed partly because of diehard opponents to reform.

Anyone over 16 can apply for a New Zealand firearms license, valid for 10 years after completing a safety course and a police background check.

Most guns do not require registration under New Zealand's Arms Act and police do not know "how many legally or illegally owned firearms there are in New Zealand", police said last year.

In 2014, police estimated there were up to 1.2 million legal firearms in civilian ownership, or around one for every four members of the public -- twice the per capita number of guns in Australia.

Friday’s “offender was mobile, there were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in, and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack," Ardern told reporters in Christchurch.

"I'm not privileged to a full breakdown at this point but it is clear that young children have been caught up in this horrific attack," she said regarding victims of the attack.

Tarrant has been arrested and charged with murder. He appeared in court earlier Saturday.

He showed no expression as District Court Judge Paul Kellar read one charge of murder to him.

The court appearance lasted only about a minute and he was led back out in handcuffs. He was ordered to return to court again April 5.

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