New Zealand's relatively lax gun laws are facing scrutiny after a white nationalist gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, killing at least 49 people and injuring dozens of others.
Police said that four people, one of them a woman, have been taken into custody in connection with the attack. A 28-year-old man was charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday.
It's still unclear what weapons the suspects used, or where and how they acquired them. But we do know that the gunman, who was radicalized online, left a 74-page manifesto in which he spoke about his white nationalist views, and made multiple references to the U.S.' second amendment rights.
Philip Alpers of GunPolicy.org, which is hosted by the University of Sydney, told the New York Times that there are likely to be new restrictions put in place after this terrorist attack.
"New Zealand is almost alone with the United States in not registering 96% of its firearms, and those are its most common firearms, the ones most used in crimes," Alpers said. "There are huge gaps in New Zealand law even if some of its laws are strong."
Unlike the U.K. or Australia — but like the U.S. — New Zealand doesn't have a ban on semiautomatic, military-style weapons. But semiautomatic weapons do require a special license and can only be bought one at a time. Even though murders are rare (there were 35 in 2017 in a country of 4.8 million), guns are common and very easy to obtain online or through newspaper ads. According to the Small Arms Survey, there were 1.2 million registered firearms in 2017, which makes New Zealand's gun ownership higher than Australia's, but still far lower than the U.S., where there is more than one gun per person in a population of 327 million.
After a mass shooting in 1990 in Aramoana, New Zealand, in which a man killed 13 people, including two children, restrictions on guns, including semiautomatic weapons, were tightened. Alpers predicts that — unlike what we've seen in the U.S. — legislators will move to enact more restrictions. "I can't think of a country that's more likely to change its gun laws after something like this," he said.