On hearing about the weapons used by the terrorist, my initial reaction was that he must have acquired them illegally because surely New Zealand has laws banning such weapons as assault rifles from private ownership, similar to countries such as Australia and the UK. But no! It turns out that even as a foreigner “staying sporadically” (in the words of New Zealand’s prime minister) in the country, the perpetrator was able to acquire all his murder weapons legally.
Taking a closer look at New Zealand’s gun laws I find that it is perfectly legal to buy an assault rifle with an ordinary Category A licence, as long as it is sold with magazines of not more than seven-round capacity. In fact the holder of such a licence may buy as many assault rifles as they wish and the government doesn’t even bother to register them or keep track of how many they own. In the restriction of magazine capacity, a huge loophole exists in the fact that the purchase of magazines requires no permit at all and the import and sale of high capacity magazines like the 30-round magazines used by the attacker is also unrestricted. Looking at the website of a large New Zealand gun dealer I found a listing announcing the arrival of a shipment of high capacity 30-round .223 calibre assault rifle magazines, saying, “Buy while stocks last”, available online at NZ$165 (Bt3,600) each. These gun laws are actually more lax than in several states of the US that require registration of all firearms, ban assault rifles and strictly limit all types of magazine to 10-round capacity.
It is only too obvious that the terrorist made New Zealand the choice for his sporadic visits because it offered the perfect legal framework to facilitate the crime he planned there. Sadly, with such poorly thought-through gun laws, this was an accident waiting to happen. At least Thailand has gun laws that require individual permits and registration of each and every firearm and has a total ban on private ownership of assault weapons. In addition, foreign visitors to Thailand are ineligible for any form of firearms permit.