“Our Gun Laws Will Change,” New Zealand's Prime Minister Says After Mosque Attacks

The day after more than 40 were killed in mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand in one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history, the country’s prime minister vowed to strengthen the country’s gun laws.

“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a press conference Saturday morning. “Now is the time for change.”

Forty-nine people were killed and more than 40 others injured after shootings at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday’s afternoon prayer. An Australian citizen in his late 20s has been charged with murder and two others have been taken into custody.

Ardern said the primary gunman used five guns, including semi-automatic weapons and shotguns, in the attack, adding that he obtained a gun license in November 2017 and acquired the guns thereafter.

Authorities would be investigating how and when he acquired the firearms as well as the suspect’s travel in and out of New Zealand, Ardern said.

The man, who has not yet been identified by authorities, is due to appear in court Saturday. He was not known to Australian or New Zealand intelligence agencies and was not on any watch lists.

Ardern said the individuals who were arrested are not residents of Christchurch and were based in Dunedin at the time of the attack.

The minimum legal age to own a gun in New Zealand is 16 or 18 for military-style semi-automatic weapons. Gun owners are required to have a license but, according to the BBC, most weapons don’t have to be registered and license holders can purchase as many weapons as they want.

In her remarks, Ardern noted that there have been attempts to change the country’s gun laws in 2005, 2012, and most recently in 2017.

“Obviously I think people will be seeking change and I’m committing to that,” she said.

Ardern said additional doctors pathologists were traveling from Australia to assist in treating the injured. Forty-two people are being treated for injuries, authorities said. Two are in critical condition, including a 4-year-old child who was transported to Starship Hospital in Auckland.

The victims have ties to Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia, among other countries, Ardern said.

As the terror threat remains high for the first time in New Zealand’s history, the prime minister urged mosques to continue to remain closed on Saturday. Additional police from around the country are also arriving in Christchurch to help patrol the streets and ease fears.

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