New Zealand's government is planning to create a registry of all guns in the country and stiffen penalties on illegal gun sales and modifications. The move comes six months after a gunman killed 51 people at mosques in Christchurch.
"Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday, adding, "that means we need to do all we can to ensure that only honest, law-abiding citizens are able to obtain firearms licenses and use firearms."
The majority of crimes that involve guns, she added, were committed by people who aren't licensed and who used guns that were either sold illegally or stolen.
Under the proposed law, anyone found guilty of selling or supplying a firearm to an unlicensed person would face up to two years and $20,000 (roughly $13,750) — more than doubling the previous penalties.
The new firearms registry would monitor and track every legal firearm in New Zealand, operating similar to a driver's license system. It would collect a licence holder's full name, date of birth, and address, and compile details about firearms. It would also record all transfers, sales and purchases of guns, along with imports and exports of firearms and other items.
It's the second phase of New Zealand's response to the deadly Christchurch attack — a tragedy that immediately set the country's leaders in motion to change their gun laws.
"That attack exposed weaknesses in legislation which we have the power to fix," Ardern said on Friday. "We would not be a responsible Government if we didn't address them."
Discussing New Zealand's response to the shooting, Ardern said, "In April, we took action to remove military style semi-automatics from our communities. Now we are taking the next step; to prevent firearms from reaching the hands of criminals."
Under the system proposed Friday, private firearms sales would still be permitted. Gun owners would be required to enter their information in the registry over a five-year period — with most of those entries expected to occur when a license is renewed or a gun is purchased.
Similar to "red flag" measures in some U.S. states, the New Zealand bill also has a mental health aspect, creating a system of warning flags that could "show a person may not be a fit and proper person to hold a firearms licence," the government said
Speaking alongside Ardern, Police Minister Stuart Nash said New Zealand must update its laws, as the 1983 Arms Act is outdated.
Summarizing recent gun crimes in New Zealand, Nash said, "Around 18,204 firearms offences have been committed in the four calendar years 2015-2018."
Those offenses, he said, range from homicide to robbery and lesser offenses such as carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
The new plan would also shorten the length of firearms licenses, cutting them from 10 years to five years. And it includes a licensing protocol for shooting clubs and gun ranges.
As part of its ban on assault-style weapons, New Zealand is also running an amnesty and gun buyback program, to take those weapons out of circulation. With this week marking the halfway point of that process, officials reported that so far, 12,621 people had turned in 19,837 firearms and 73,949 parts, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Ardern's new move on guns comes at the end of a tumultuous week for her Labour Party, as a female former volunteer came forward Monday to detail allegations of sexual assault against a party official — raising new questions about the party's handling of those claims. The controversy resulted in the Labour Party president resigning on Wednesday.