New Zealand votes to amend gun laws after Christchurch attack

Flowers and a New Zealand national flag are seen at a memorial as tributes to victims of the mosque attacks near Linwood mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Lawmakers in New Zealand voted almost unanimously on Wednesday to change gun laws, less than a month after its worst peacetime mass shooting, in which 50 people were killed in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch.

Parliament passed the gun reform bill, the first substantial changes to New Zealand’s gun laws in decades, by 119 to 1. It must now receive royal assent from the governor general to become law.

“There have been very few occasions when I have seen parliament come together in this way, and I can’t imagine circumstances when it is more necessary,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in presenting the legislation.

Ardern banned the sale of all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles just six days after the March 15 shooting, and announced plans to tighten gun laws.

A lone gunman used semi-automatic guns in the Christchurch mosque attacks, killing 50 people as they attended Friday prayers.

Authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, with 50 counts of murder following the attacks.

The new curbs bar the circulation and use of most semi-automatic firearms, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatic firearms, magazines over a certain capacity, and some shotguns.

Existing gun laws had provided for a standard A-category gun license covering semi-automatics limited to seven shots.

The bill grants an amnesty until Sept. 30 for people to surrender prohibited items. More than 300 weapons had already been handed in, police minister Stuart Nash told parliament.

The government has begun work on a second arms amendment bill it hopes to introduce in June, he said, adding that the measure would tackle issues regarding a gun registry, among others.

The government has faced criticism from some quarters for rushing through the bill. Wednesday’s dissenting vote came from David Seymour, leader of the small free-market ACT Party, who questioned why the measure was being rushed through.

Ardern said majority lawmakers believe such guns had no place in New Zealand.

“We are ultimately here because 50 people died and they do not have a voice,” she added. “We, in this house, are their voice and today we have used that voice wisely.”

Since last month’s shooting, New Zealand has tightened security and canceled several events in Auckland, its largest city, intended to commemorate ANZAC Day on April 25.

“There is no information about a specific threat to ANZAC events,” police official Karyn Malthus, said in a statement. “However it’s important that the public be safe, and feel safe, at events in the current environment.”

In 1996, neighboring Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buyback after the Port Arthur massacre that killed 35 people.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Pittsburgh to propose tighter gun laws after synagogue attack

FILE PHOTO: Vigil attendees comfort one another outside the Tree of Life synagogue, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Alan Freed/File Photo

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – The Pittsburgh city council on Tuesday was due to introduce a package of gun-control laws including a ban on assault-style rifles, nearly two months after a gunman shouting anti-Semitic messages killed 11 people in a synagogue.

The measure would also ban certain types of ammunition and allow courts to ban gun ownership by people deemed to pose a significant threat of violence.

FILE PHOTO: Flowers and other items have been left as memorials outside the Tree of Life synagogue following last Saturday's shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Alan Freed/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Flowers and other items have been left as memorials outside the Tree of Life synagogue following last Saturday’s shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Alan Freed/File Photo

“As gun violence escalates across the country, it would be unconscionable for me to stand by and do nothing,” Councilman Corey O’Connor, one of the legislation’s authors, said in a statement. O’Connor represents Squirrel Hill, the neighborhood where the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue took place.

Assault-style weapons, with the capacity to fire multiple rounds in a short period of time, have played a significant role in the series of deadly mass shootings the United States has experienced in recent years.

Gun-rights advocates opposed the measures and threatened legal action if they passed.

The Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League and Firearm Owners Against Crime noted that a state law forbids local governments from enacting stricter gun laws than those in place statewide. The groups also said the proposal would violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Robert Bowers, 46, is accused of shooting and killing 11 worshippers at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27, using a legally purchased assault-style rifle and three handguns. He has pleaded not guilty.

 

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

What’s in play in Washington on gun rights after Florida school shooting

Messages, posted on a fence, hang, as students and parents attend a voluntary campus orientation at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for the coming Wednesday's reopening, following last week's mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Angel Valentin

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican who has frequently pledged support for gun rights, is considering some changes to gun laws and other safety measures after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.

Here are the proposals in play for Trump, who faces pressure to act from student activists pushing for tougher gun laws, as well as opposition from gun owners, the politically powerful National Rifle Association, and Republicans worried about how the issue will shape congressional elections in November.

TIGHTER BACKGROUND CHECKS

Trump supports a bill that would strengthen a database of people who are not legally allowed to buy guns. The bill would provide incentives for federal agencies and states to upload more data into the system.

Some Republican senators have already expressed concerns that errors in the expanded data could prevent some people from legally exercising their constitutional rights to own guns.

One potential snag: the House of Representatives has already passed a version of the bill that includes a measure allowing people to bring legal concealed guns across state lines. The Senate would likely balk at the provision.

Trump has not given his opinion on a proposal to require background checks at gun shows or on internet sites, which has been a way around the background checks conducted for sales in stores. This idea has failed twice in the past five years to find enough backing in the Senate.

AGE LIMITS

Trump said last week he wanted to restrict gun sales to people aged 21 and over. Currently, 18-year-olds can buy many types of guns.

He has subsequently been silent on that idea. The White House said details are being studied. Republicans in Congress, where they control both the House and Senate, have shown little appetite for the measure.

FUNDS FOR THREAT DETECTION

Trump supports a bill that provides schools with funding for training to identify warning signs for violence, anonymous tip lines, and other measures to boost school safety. There is broad bipartisan support for the measures.

BUMP STOCKS

Trump has asked his administration to craft regulations to effectively ban sales of “bump stock” accessories that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds a minute.

Banning bump stocks, which were not used in the Florida shooting but were used in a massacre in Las Vegas in October, has been studied in the past and deemed to require action by Congress. New regulations could be tied up with lawsuits. There is little momentum in Congress to change the law.

ARMING TEACHERS

Trump is most enthusiastic about the idea of training certain teachers and staff to carry concealed guns, which he said would the most cost-effective way to protect students in the event of a shooting. He said he believes potential school shooters would be deterred by knowing some teachers are armed.

This proposal falls in the jurisdiction of state and local governments, a point that Trump and Republican lawmakers have emphasized. The idea has been adopted in Texas and some other states, but teachers’ unions and some law enforcement groups have panned it.

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Trump has said he would address mental health, but has not provided specific ideas. He has bemoaned the lack of mental institutions to treat people who may be violent.

Congress is likely to direct new funds to mental health under a 2016-passed law that authorizes money to move forward for the first time this year.

‘RED FLAG’ LAWS

Some states have laws allowing police to temporarily seize guns from people reported to be dangerous. Trump has not expressed opinions on the idea. There is not currently a broadly backed push in Congress to create similar laws at the federal level.

BAN ON SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLES

Students who survived the Florida shooting, gun control groups and many Democrats want a federal ban on semiautomatic rifles, sometimes called assault rifles. There was a federal ban on assault-style weapons from 1994-2004, but there is little support for a renewed ban among Republicans. Trump has not discussed it.

MOVIES AND VIDEOGAMES

Trump has expressed concern that children are exposed to too much violence in movies and videogames, but has not made any specific proposals on the topic.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Frances Kerry)

Florida teens travel to state capital demanding action on guns

Mourners attend a service for Carmen Marie Schentrup, one of the victims of the school shooting at St. Andrew Church Catholic Church in Coral Springs, Florida, U.S. February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

By Katanga Johnson

PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – Busloads of Florida students headed on Tuesday to the state capital Tallahassee to call for a ban on assault rifles, pressing on with protests after a shooting rampage at a high school that killed 17 teens and educators.

Last week’s killing, the second-deadliest shooting at a public school in U.S. history, has inflamed a national debate about gun rights and prompted teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and across the United States to demand legislative action. The incident has galvanized advocates for stricter gun controls, including many survivors of the shooting.

A Washington Post/ABC News opinion poll released on Tuesday showed that 77 percent of Americans believe the Republican-controlled Congress is not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, with 62 percent saying President Donald Trump, also a Republican, has not done enough on that front.

Students who survived the shooting have promised they will push for action. Jaclyn Corin, a 17-year-old junior at the school in Parkland near Fort Lauderdale, said on Twitter that she had secured a meeting with Florida’s Republican Governor, Rick Scott, on the issue.

Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone confirmed the governor would be “meeting survivors later this week.”

Mourners attend a service for Carmen Marie Schentrup, one of the victims of the school shooting at St. Andrew Church Catholic Church in Coral Springs, Florida, U.S. February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipp

Mourners attend a service for Carmen Marie Schentrup, one of the victims of the school shooting at St. Andrew Church Catholic Church in Coral Springs, Florida, U.S. February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Nikolas Cruz, 19, is accused of returning to the high school from which he had been expelled and opening fire with a semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle on Feb. 14. He faces 17 counts of premeditated murder.

Students, many of whom have grown up in a world where they regularly train for the possibility of being targeted by a shooter on the loose, teachers and gun safety advocates were due to gather in Tallahassee on Wednesday to demand that state lawmakers enact a ban on the sale of assault weapons in Florida.

Gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and remains one of the nation’s more divisive issues. The Washington Post/ABC News poll found that fewer than seven in 10 Republicans support the idea of a ban on assault weapons, the reverse of Democrats, 71 percent of whom support it. A federal ban on assault weapons, in force for 10 years, expired in 2004.

The suspect, whose mother died in November, was investigated by authorities after videos surfaced on the social media platform Snapchat, showing him cutting himself, an assessment by Florida’s Department of Children and Families said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has acknowledged it failed to act on a tip that was called in last month and that warned that Cruz possessed a gun and the desire to kill.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Frances Kerry)