Unified in grief and determined to act, New Zealand’s politicians have almost unanimously voted to ban high-powered guns in response to the Christchurch mosque shootings.
Less than four weeks after the terror attack on mosques that killed 50, the country’s parliament on Wednesday afternoon overwhelmingly voted for a ban on a range of semi-automatic weapons and modifications, passing the bill 119 votes-to-one at its third and final reading.
In her speech to the House, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she vividly recalled the moment she knew change was coming.
“[The police commissioner] described to me the nature of the weapons that had been used in this terror attack. And then he described to me they had been obtained legally,” she said.
“I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could have been obtained legally in this country.”
She appeared near tears as she spoke of the attack’s victims and survivors during.
“We are ultimately here because 50 people died and they do not have a voice. We in this house are their voice.”
The conservative opposition National Party backed the bill at all stages, despite some farmers this week expressing frustration at a lack of exemptions for pest control – and on Wednesday did the same in a rare moment of unity.
“To the families of our missing 50 and those who were injured, I trust you will look at us as an institution and say we delivered here today,” National MP Andrew Bayly said.
Standing alone against the ban was the libertarian Act party’s sole MP, David Seymour, who lamented the pace the legislation was passed, despite agreeing some change was needed.
While a small and vocal gun lobby had echoed those concerns, a wave of public support has swept the laws through at an almost unprecedented speed.
Ardern evoked Australia’s swift response to the Port Arthur massacre as she dismissed calls for delay.
“An argument about process is an argument to do nothing… the first politician I ever heard say that in relation to gun laws was John Howard,” she told parliament.
“You either believe that in New Zealand these weapons have a place or you do not.”
Wednesday’s law change was announced six days after the March 15 attack, with Ardern promising the weapons used in the shooting would be taken out of public hands.
The bill was introduced into the house last week an single day of public hearings was held and officials worked through 13,000 written submissions in days.
But even before the new laws were introduced, politicians made it clear more would follow.
The 28-year-old Australian man arrested after the attack is alleged to have bought his weapons legally before modifying them, and politicians will consider whether licensing rules need tightening.
They’ll also consider a comprehensive gun register.
While about 1.5 million guns are thought to be in the country, a lack of registration means authorities have no idea how many weapons are expected to be handed back during an amnesty and gun buyback – the first details of which were unveiled on Wednesday – or how much the program may cost.
While politicians held their vote on Wednesday, volunteers in Christchurch began removing an enormous pile of tributes and flowers that has built up at the city’s Botanic Gardens.
The 150-metre-long collection will be sorted and taken to families and mosques.
More than a dozen of those hurt remain in hospital.