New Zealand’s gun laws are strict compared to America’s, but there are gaps.
Early Friday morning, 49 people were killed in mass shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. In the aftermath of this tragedy, there’s a renewed interest in how gun laws work in New Zealand.
And on Friday evening, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “our gun laws will change” — referencing, among other possibilities, “a semiautomatic gun ban.”
As it stands, New Zealanders do not have a legal or constitutional right to own guns, and the small island country has strong gun laws relative to the US (as is true for developed nations in general). But the laws have some gaps, particularly when it comes to the registration of firearms and the regulation of semiautomatic weapons. These gaps have led to contentious debates in the country: Some gun owners don’t want tougher laws, while police have come to see the current legal framework as “patchy,” as reported by Stuff, a media company in New Zealand.
New Zealand has more than 1.2 million civilian-owned firearms — about one gun for every four people, according to Small Arms Survey, which provides estimates for gun ownership around the world. That puts the country in the top 20 nations in the world for civilian gun ownership (though still far behind the US, which has more than one gun for every person).
Still, New Zealand generally has very low levels of gun violence — likely due, in part, to its restrictions on firearms. But because of the remaining gaps and Friday’s terrorist attacks, there are already calls, including from the prime minister, to strengthen the country’s