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Christchurch shootings: NZ cabinet backs tighter gun laws

Media captionPM Jacinda Ardern says details of gun law reforms will come within days

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has said she will announce detailed gun law reforms within days, after an attack on two mosques left 50 people dead.

Ms Ardern said her cabinet had backed gun law changes “in principle”.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a self-described white supremacist, has been charged with murder.

Police say the killer used military-style assault weapons modified to make them more deadly for the attack – all of which is legal under current laws.

Friday’s events had sparked calls for reform, with Ms Ardern saying soon after that “our gun laws will change”.

What has the cabinet agreed?

No specific details were given by the prime minister at her press conference on Monday, but she said they would made clear by 25 March.

“This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,” she said.

Ms Ardern was appearing alongside her coalition partner and Deputy PM Winston Peters, who has previously opposed changes.

He said he fully supported the prime minister on the issue, adding: “The reality is that after one PM on Friday, our world changed forever and so will our laws.”

Ms Ardern said: “We have made a decision as a cabinet, we are unified.”

She also announced that an inquiry would look into the lead-up to the attacks, and what might have been done differently.

What do we know about the guns used?

At the weekend, Ms Ardern said the suspect had a gun licence, obtained in November 2017, and owned five guns.

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Weaponry shown in the footage circulating of the attack

Earlier on Monday, gun retailer Gun City said it had sold four weapons to the alleged gunman online, but it did not sell him the high-powered weapon used in the mosque shootings.

“The MSSA, military-style automatic, reportedly used by the alleged gunman was not purchased from Gun City,” CEO David Tipple told a news conference in Christchurch, saying that it had only sold him A-category weapons.

Under the country’s gun laws, A-category weapons can be semi-automatic but limited to seven shots. Video footage of the attacks appeared to show the gunman with a larger magazine round, which is also available legally.

There are an estimated 1.5 million privately owned firearms in the country.

Since the attack there have been calls for semi-automatic weapons to be banned, a regulation that exists in Australia and Canada.

Previous attempts to tighten gun laws have failed due to a strong gun lobby and a culture of hunting.

New Zealand’s gun laws

  • The minimum legal age to own a gun is 16, or 18 for military-style semi-automatic weapons (MSSA)
  • All gun owners must have a licence but most individual weapons do not have to be registered. New Zealand is one of the few countries where this is the case
  • MSSAs must be registered, but critics say loopholes in the law mean they need only be minimally modified (for example by inserting a low calibre magazine) to evade this requirement
  • Applicants for a firearms licence must pass a background check of criminal and medical records
  • Once a licence has been issued, gun owners can buy as many weapons as they want

What do we know about the footage of the attack?

Footage of the killings was live-streamed by the attacker, and on Sunday police said it was now classified as an objectionable publication and therefore it was an offence to distribute or possess the material.

An 18-year-old appeared in court on Monday, charged with distributing the live-stream. The teenager was also charged with publishing a photograph of the mosque with the message “target acquired” and faces a maximum of 14 years in prison for each charge, according to the prosecution.

Facebook said it had removed 1.5 million videos of the attack around the world in the first 24 hours.

What did the police say on Monday?

Commissioner Mike Bush again confirmed that police believed there was only one attacker, but added that this did not rule out others might have provided support.

Police say the criminal investigation is the largest ever undertaken by the country’s force.

The threat level across the country remains high and “you will continue to see for weeks to come high vigilance a high visibility from New Zealand police and from our emergency service partners,” the commissioner said.

What is the latest on the victims?

Nine people remain in hospital in a critical condition.

Media captionFarid Ahmed: “I have forgiven him and I will pray for him”

Frustration is building among relatives over the release of the bodies of the dead for burial.

The first release was approved on Sunday but the family say another relative was killed and they want them released together. No burials will take place on Monday.

Islamic tradition calls for the cleansing and burial of bodies as soon as possible after death.

How is New Zealand continuing to mourn?

Many public vigils were held across the country over the weekend and more are planned for this week.

On Monday afternoon, about 3,000 high school and college students held a vigil in Hagley Park near the Al Noor mosque, one of the two mosques attacked on Friday.

Traditional Maori ceremonial dances have been performed across the country in the wake of the murders.

Earlier on Monday, the National Crisis Centre gave an update setting out the kinds of help and support that are available, ranging from financial help for the families affected to assistance to schools and parents on how to communicate with their children about what happened.

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Students gather in a vigil to commemorate victims the Christchurch mosque shooting

Christchurch shootings: NZ cabinet backs tighter gun laws

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