Mourning New Zealand takes swift action; instates gun reform

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, on Monday ordered an inquiry into what government officials knew about the gunman in Friday’s massacre before he carried out the attack that left 50 people dead at two mosques in Christchurch.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with members of the Muslim community this afternoon to offer their support. Credit: Christ Church City Council

“The purpose of this inquiry is to look at what all relevant agencies knew or could or should have known about the individual and his activities, including his access to weapons and whether they could have been in a position to prevent the attack,” she told reporters at an afternoon news conference in Wellington, the capital.

She also pledged to make changes to the country’s gun laws, saying that “within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms that I believe will have made our country safer.”

She said her Cabinet had agreed “in principle” to a plan to overhaul gun laws, but that a few more days were needed to work out the details. Comparing New Zealand’s process to that of Australia — which enacted strict gun laws 12 days after a mass shooting in 1996 — she said, “We’ve taken 72 hours. There are still some details that needs to be worked through. I want to do that but still work as hard as we can.”

The authorities in Australia also raided the home of Tarrant’s sister in a beach town north of Sydney on Monday, and those in New Zealand continued searching his home in the town of Dunedin, about 220 miles south of Christchurch.

Her push for restrictions — over the objection of gun enthusiasts — landed just a few hours after new details emerged about the arsenal of the accused shooter, Brenton Tarrant, 28, showing that he obtained a basic firearms license in November of 2017 and bought four of his weapons online between then and March of 2018.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand at a mosque in Wellington, the capital, on Sunday.Credit: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Wally Haumaha, the deputy New Zealand police commissioner, said identification specialists worked through the night to identify the people who had been killed, as families began mourning dead and wounded relatives.

Under New Zealand law, anyone 16 or older may seek a firearms license, and anyone 18 or older who has applied for a firearms license can seek a permit to possess a military-style semiautomatic weapon.

Police officers on Sunday near Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the mosques that was attacked on Friday. Credit: Adam Dean/The New York Times

Thirty-four victims of the shootings remain in Christchurch Hospital, 12 of them in critical condition, officials said on Sunday.

A 4-year-old girl also remains in critical condition at a children’s hospital in Auckland, where she was flown after the attack.

A Christchurch Hospital spokesman, David Meates, said that on Saturday the hospital treated nine new victims of the Friday attack. They arrived with cuts, embedded glass fragments and injuries to their backs, knees and feet.

Meates said the hospital was running seven operating theaters on Sunday instead of the usual three.

Ardern said the list of people killed was still provisional and that the families of victims would receive financial assistance. She said families would receive the bodies of victims starting Sunday evening, with all bodies expected to be returned by Wednesday.

Compiled by Shashwat Mohanty, with inputs from the New York Times, the Indian Express, the Telegraph, and Stuff Magazine.

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