Lawmakers in New Zealand votes overwhelmingly Tuesday to back new gun restrictions in the first stage of a bill they hope will become law by 12 April.

The anti-firearms legislation is being pushed through parliament quickly after a gunman used an automatic weapon to kill 50 people and wound scores more at two mosques in Christchurch in March.  Police have charged Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year old Australian man, with the attack.

The shooting, unprecedented in New Zealand’s history, has prompted a swift crackdown on firearms, which is widely supported by New Zealanders.

There are an estimated 13,500 military style semi-automatics (MSSA’s) in New Zealand and as many as 1.5 million firearms overall in a population of just 4.7 million.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said far too many people have access to guns and that gun ownership in New Zealand should be a privilege not a right.  

The Arms Amendment Bill passed its first reading in parliament Tuesday with the overwhelming support of liberals and conservatives (only Conservative David Seymour voted against the bill). The government is also drawing up a gun buy back scheme estimated to cost up to $200 million New Zealand Dollars.

The new law bans all semi-automatic guns and high capacity magazines, semi-automatic shotguns and pump action shotguns. Hunting rifles and shotguns, such as the 2.2 calibre semi-automatic, will not be banned.

The Gun Lobby 

But not everyone in New Zealand is behind the ban, more than 14,000 people have signed a petition, which says the law is unjust for law abiding citizens. One such person is David Tipple, the owner of Gun City in Christchurch, one of New Zealand’s biggest firearm retailers.

Tipple said the law is being rushed through and driven by emotions. “Rushing this law is causing division,” he told the New Zealand Herald.

“Every society has guns, and there is no correlation between the forceful reduction of gun numbers and an improvement in public safety,” claimed Tipple

Tipple earlier admitted to police and the media that the suspect in the mass shooting, Brenton Tarrant, had brought four weapons from his store that he then went on to use in the mosque massacre via a police verified online process.

Not all New Zealand gun owners share Tipple’s views. Noel Womersley, who shoots large animals for small farmers on South Island, told Reuters that no-one needs a semi-automatic. “I don’t think we need military style weapons in our society. I definitely don’t need them in my job, its like driving around in a Ferrari, you don’t need,” he said.  

Edward Cowley