The government has made changes to New Zealand’s firearms laws and counter-terrorism efforts, and launched an international appeal towards social media, in the year after the Christchurch mosque attacks.
On March 15th, 2019, a gunman entered the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, killing 51 people. The attack was live-streamed online.
Only six days after the attack, the government strengthened New Zealand’s gun laws by banning high military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-powered magazines. The bans were passed into law after less than a month, with all MPs except ACT’s David Seymour voting in favour of the bill.
The law also included a gun buyback scheme, in which those who owned the now-illegal weapons could surrender them to police for compensation.
The second wave of gun law reforms were put through to Parliament last September, introducing a national gun register, a ban on firearms advertising, more difficult restrictions on firearms licenses and halving the licences effective period from 10 years to five.
While Labour and the Greens are supporting these changes, National said these changes did not target criminal activity. ACT has also said they will vote against these changes.
Despite New Zealand First supporting the bill through its first and second readings in Parliament, MP Ron Mark told Stuff that the party had some reservations with the changes and they were settling the issues with Police Minister Stuart Nash.
The government also started an international initiative to regulate social media by restricting extremist material online.
Two months after the attack in May 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched the Christchurch Call in Paris to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online in order to stop the internet being used as a tool for terrorists.
It called on governments to enforce laws that “prohibit the production or dissemination” of extreme content online and online service providers to review their algorithms to stop extreme content being more accessible.
The Call is now supported by 48 countries and three international organizations, including the European Commission, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. It is also supported by a number of online service providers, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Youtube.
New Zealand’s counter-terrorism strategy has also been bolstered since the attack.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Cabinet last September that New Zealand is at “greater risk” of another terrorist attack, and the government’s major focus was “preventing such a tragedy occurring again”.
Its latest Counter-Terrorism Strategy Plan included a Police-and-NZSIS-led “tip-off messaging” programme to encourage the public to report concerning behaviour, which will be unveiled next month.
The plan also outlined that the first “annual threat environment report” will be published in July by the SIS, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) will also continue work on the Christchurch Call.
A national service was held in Christchurch the past weekend. A karakia was also organized by Auckland University’s Muslism Student Association at the Pavillion last Friday afternoon to remember those who were killed in the attack.