New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Picture: AFP/MARTY MELVILLE
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Picture: AFP/MARTY MELVILLE

Sydney — New Zealand’s new gun laws were officially signed into effect on Thursday, formally banning military-style, semi-automatic weapons less than a month after a white supremacist gunman killed 50 worshippers inside two Christchurch mosques.

Governor-general Patsy Reddy signed the legislation late on Thursday, with the royal assent the final stage before it becomes law at midnight. The new rules are aimed at removing semi-automatic firearms from circulation through a buy-back scheme, prohibition and harsh prison sentences. They prohibit “semi-automatic firearms, magazines, and parts that can be used to assemble prohibited firearms”.

On Thursday, New Zealand police began preparations for the mass buy-back scheme, advising the amnesty is now in place for the newly prohibited weapons.

“We are committed to work in partnership with our firearms community across New Zealand to make this transition to the new laws as easy as possible for everybody,” deputy commissioner Michael Clement told reporters.

Authorities have made public a list of affected firearms and have asked gun owners to contact police if they now find themselves in possession of a prohibited guns, with the buy-back details still to be finalised.

“We ask for people to be patient while we work through development of robust processes around large-scale collection of firearms, exemption processes and developing a buy-back compensation scheme,” Clement said.

The hand-in amnesty will be in place for at least six months, and protects firearms holders with “good intent”, Clement said. But those who break the new laws will face between two and 10 years in jail.

MPs on Wednesday almost unanimously passed the legislation. An emotional Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told parliamentarians she “vividly” recalled the moment after the massacre when she, without consulting widely, decided the government had to act.

The sole holdout against the legislation was the ACT Party, which has just one seat in the 120-seat parliament. The bill was first introduced on April 1. Its passage in barely 10 days has surprised even the most ardent gun-control advocates.