New Zealand officials collected about 56,000 firearms as part of a sixth-month gun buyback program that ended Friday, according to a news release from the country’s Minister of Police.
The New Zealand government instituted the program after 51 people were fatally shot at two Islamic houses of worship in March. The man accused in the shooting, Australian citizen Brenton Tarrant, 28, has pleaded not guilty to 92 charges, including 51 counts of murder.
New Zealand’s parliament voted almost unanimously in April in favor of changing the country’s gun laws and banning all military-style semi-automatic weapons.
“When we started the buyback and amnesty we had one objective, to make our country a safer place,” said Stuart Nash, minister of police for New Zealand. “We focused on the type of assault rifles, high-capacity firearms and military style semi-automatics used in the terror attack 40 weeks ago, on 15 March.
“We are now moving to the next phase, to ensure firearms cannot fall into the wrong hands. This is the objective of the proposed gun register and tighter licensing system. We are not done with efforts to remove unlawful firearms from circulation.”
About 33,000 people took part in the program, which required gun owners to hand over newly prohibited weapons. In addition to the 56,250 firearms collected, officials expect to buyback another 1,600 once validated. Another 2,700 were modified to be lawful firearms.
“Police also confirm they can account for 15,037 E-category firearms or military style semi-automatics held by 5,060 people, slightly higher than original estimates,” according to the release. Most of those guns have been handed in but some are being held by people who are seeking exemptions. This group includes collectors and gun dealers.
More than 194,000 prohibited parts, like magazines that can hold more than 10 cartridges and pistol grips, were turned over. According to Nash, the numbers are preliminary numbers and will be updated in January.
The buyback cost New Zealand about $102.2 million in payments to gun owners, officials said in the release.
A report by the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey estimated there are 1.2 million civilian owned firearms in New Zealand as of 2017, about 26 per every 100 citizens.