New Zealand's governor general on Thursday formally signed into effect sweeping gun laws outlawing military-style weapons, less than a month after a man used such guns to kill 50 people and wound dozens at two mosques in Christchurch. Governor General Patsy Reddy signed the bill as police said a gun buyback program will be announced to collect the now-banned weapons. The weapons will be illegal starting at midnight, but police said a brief amnesty program will be in effect until details of the buyback are announced, the AP reports. "For people who find themselves now in possession of a prohibited firearm, we ask you to please notify us," Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Clement said. "The collection of firearms will occur at a later stage."
Anyone who retains such a weapon now faces a penalty of up to five years in prison. Exemptions allow heirloom weapons held by collectors or weapons used for professional pest control. New Zealand's House of Representatives on Wednesday passed by a final vote of 119 to 1 legislation banning the weapons. The only dissent was from the libertarian ACT Party's lone lawmaker in Parliament. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke emotionally during the bill's final reading of the traumatic injuries suffered by victims of the March 15 attack, whom she visited in Christchurch Hospital after the shootings. "I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could be obtained legally in this country," she said. (Ardern introduced changes to gun laws within a week of the shooting.)