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PM announces ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles

Our firearms laws are set to change in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack. Photo: RNZ/123RF

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a ban on all military-style semi-automatic weapons and all assault rifles.

This afternoon, she announced that every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch last Friday would be banned under more stringent gun laws.

As of 3pm today an order in council took effect. The changes to the regulations would mean the firearms were now categorised as needing an E-class licence endorsement.

This means no one would be able to buy the weapons without police approval. Ms Ardern said there was no point in applying for one.

Read more: How you can help after the Christchurch terror attack

For those who were already in possession of these weapons, Ms Ardern said the firearms would be tightly regulated, while for everyone else, the weapons would now be effectively out of reach.

She also said the government would be establishing a buyback scheme to take the firearms out of circulation.

After a reasonable period for returns, those who continue to possess these firearms will be in contravention of the law.

Anyone in breach of the law would be liable to a $4000 fine to up to three years imprisonment.

"We're looking to increase the penalty when the ban is in full force and the opportunities of buyback are over," Ms Ardern said.

PM Jacinda Ardern said the buyback scheme was designed to prevent the creation of a black market for banned weapons.

She said people who held weapons illegally would be protected by a police amnesty.

"We're in the dark as to how many of these are in circulation," Ms Ardern said, referring to the number of weapons the government might have to buy back.

"We haven't had specific conversations about where the funding for the buyback will come from."

She said she was confident that the majority of New Zealanders would support the gun law changes.

Minister of Police Stuart Nash said the decisive move was an interim step until legislation could be passed. That legislation is likely to be in place by April 11.

He said this measure would enable New Zealand to become a safer place.

He said police were currently preparing to take these weapons out of circulation.

Cabinet - including the Green Party - decided in principle on reforms on Monday, with the National Party saying it supports change.

Ms Ardern said on Wednesday that gun laws in New Zealand were "a blueprint of what not to do" and there was a "large number of loopholes" in the law.

The Police Association has called for semi-automatic weapons to be banned, while Fish and Game said it supported a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons.

Retailer Hunting & Fishing New Zealand has pulled all "military-style" semi-automatic firearms from sale nationwide.

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners said there was already a stringent vetting process for firearm licences in this country and military-style semi-automatic weapons should not be banned.

The alleged shooter in the terrorist attacks held a standard firearms licence that allowed them to own limited power semi-automatic weapons. Police said it was possible firearms had been modified to be more like a military-style automatic weapon.

Read a short history of NZ's gun laws here.

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