New Zealand has launched a six-month gun buyback program aimed at ridding the country of semi-automatic weapons, the kind banned after the March massacre at two mosques in Christchurch.
“The compensation scheme recognizes licensed firearms owners are now in possession of prohibited items through no fault of their own, but because of a law passed by almost the whole parliament,” Police Minister Stuart Nash said Thursday.
A month after the shootings that killed 50 people, New Zealand lawmakers passed a bill, 119-1, to ban military-style semi-automatic rifles and automatic assault rifles as well as high-capacity magazines, which can hold multiple rounds of ammunition, and accessories that can convert ordinary rifles into fast-acting assault rifles.
The buyback plan launched Thursday will compensate gun owners up to 95% of the original cost. Owners will also be compensated for prohibited parts and magazines.
“Police have detailed plans in place for the next step, which is the collection of firearms from the community. It will be a huge logistical exercise and is expected to get under way in mid-July,” Nash said.
The government has set aside nearly $136 million for the program that will end on Dec. 20.
With a population of just fewer than 5 million, New Zealand is home to an estimated total of 1.5 million firearms, making it the country with the 17th highest rate of civilian firearm ownership in the world, according to the Small Arms Survey.