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'Our History Changed Forever. Now, Our Laws Will Too'

New Zealand introduces sweeping changes to country's gun laws
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2019 5:09 AM CDT
Updated Mar 21, 2019 7:01 AM CDT
In this image made from video taken March 19, 2019, a police officer carries a gun voluntarily surrendered by a member of the public into the Masterton police station in Masterton, New Zealand.   (TVNZ via AP)
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(Newser) – New Zealand has brought in stronger gun laws less than a week after the worst mass shooting in the country's history. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced sweeping changes to the country's gun laws Thursday, including a ban on military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles like the one used in last week's Christchurch mosque shootings, the New Zealand Herald reports. Ardern says there will be a gun buyback scheme and those who already own such weapons will have to turn them in, but they will be offered "reasonable compensation," the Guardian reports. The New Zealand government believes the scheme will cost up to $150 million.

There are believed to be up to 1.5 million guns in New Zealand, which has a population of around 5 million. Officials estimate there are 13,500 semi-automatic weapons in circulation, but they can't say how many assault rifles might be out there. "Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too," Ardern said. "For many people, you will now be in unlawful possession of your firearms," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said, advising gun owners to contact police for instructions instead of simply turning up at police stations with their weapons. Authorities say that as with a similar ban Australia introduced in 1996, exceptions will be made for farmers who need the weapons for pest control, the BBC reports. (Read more New Zealand stories.)

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