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Less than 1% participate in New Zealand gun buyback

AR-15 rifle. (Michael Guio/Flickr)
July 08, 2019
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Just one percent of New Zealand’s guns have been turned in after the nation’s ban on semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Approximately 700 guns have been turned in so far, an amount estimated between 0.05 and 0.06 percent, based on officials’ earlier estimates of 1.2 million to 1.5 million total guns of all types in the country, The Washington Post reported.

Official data has not yet been released and is complex to even obtain due to the fact that many of the banned weapons are not on the national registry.

The New Zealand government has sent notices to owners of all registered firearms informing them of their obligation to turn in their firearm. An amnesty period lasts until December 20, and after that, gun owners will face consequences for being in possession of banned firearms.

The buyback program was implemented in April when the New Zealand parliament approved a ban on semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.

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The move was prompted by the March 15 terror attacks on mosques in the New Zealand capital of Christchurch that killed 51 people. Less than a week later, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern vowed, “Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terror attack on Friday will be banned.”

She added, “On 15 March our history changed forever. Now our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.”

Those in favor of the ban say that the amount of money offered for gun buybacks isn’t enough and they fear a rise in black market sales.

The current buyback value is 95 percent of the projected base price for new or newer guns. That amount decreases for weapons that are in lesser quality condition.

Joe Green, a former New Zealand Police arms control manager said the system is “operating a little bit in the dark,” and said the plan is “really an open checkbook because they don’t know how many they are buying back,” The Washington Post reported.

Opposition from pro-gun groups and threats of lawsuits has hindered the efforts, contributing to the low turnout.

Nicole McKee, secretary of the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners, said her group will “take legal action, likely to be by way of a class action,” the Washington Post reported.

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Others are threatening to sue over “property confiscation.”

Philippa Yasbek, co-founder of Gun Control NZ said the reason for the low turnout is likely that gun owners were “waiting to see the levels of compensation on offer” before they participated.

“Despite any potential difficulties with the buyback, it is really important that we remove semiautomatic weapons from the community. We also know that this change will be effective. In Australia, there were 13 fatal mass shootings from 1979 to 1996. After the gun law reforms in 1996, there were none for more than 20 years,” Yasbek argued.

Stuart Nash, New Zealand’s minister of police, announced that 200 collection events will be organized over the upcoming 90 days.

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