Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - Page 6 News List

NZ vows gun control as ‘gunman’ sacks lawyer

AFP, CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand

New Zealand will tighten gun laws in the wake of its worst modern-day massacre, the government said yesterday, as it emerged that the white supremacist accused of carrying out the killings at two mosques will represent himself in court.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her coalition was unified on the need to reduce the availability of the kind of weapons used by Brenton Tarrant, as he went room to room shooting Muslims gathered for Friday prayers.

“We have made a decision as a Cabinet; we are unified,” she said, flanked by her coalition partner and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

Peters, whose New Zealand First party has previously opposed changes, said he backed the prime minister fully.

“The reality is that after 1pm on Friday our world changed forever, and so will our laws,” he said.

Ardern, the youthful prime minister who has become the face of the nation’s tragedy, said there would be an inquiry into the horrifying attack, as questions swirl over whether intelligence agencies should have spotted warning signs.

The role of social media has also come under the spotlight, after the gunman livestreamed his rampage on Facebook.

A teenager, whose name cannot be published, yesterday appeared in court charged with distributing that footage.

Meanwhile, police launched a probe into a bomb hoax that on Sunday forced an hours-long closure of the airport in Dunedin, where Tarrant lived.

Grief continued to wash across the nation yesterday, with New Zealanders of all stripes gathering to express revulsion over the killings — and a unified front against racial hatred.

Family and friends outside al-Noor mosque — the scene of the largest massacre — held a sunset prayer session, with their mournful cries echoing through a park as locals looked on.

“It just happened to be the time of our evening prayer. Anywhere you are, you can just pray anywhere,” said Saiyad Raza, who had traveled from Auckland to bury his cousin who died in the shootings.

Earlier, a Maori cleansing ceremony was performed at the mosque, bringing together Kiwis, Muslim leaders and local officials.

The organizers of New Zealand’s largest gun show — the Kumeu Militaria Show, near Auckland — announced that they had canceled the event in the wake of the massacre and because of “elevated security risks.”

Despite having tightened the rules in the 1990s after the last mass shooting, New Zealand has relatively permissive gun laws, with licences granted to nearly every applicant.

David Tipple, the managing director of Gun City, whose online store sold Tarrant four weapons, said he felt no responsibility for the killings.

“We detected nothing extraordinary about this license holder,” he told reporters.

Tarrant, who appeared in court on Saturday charged with murder, yesterday sacked his state-appointed lawyer.

Richard Peters, who represented the alleged killer during the hearing, said the 28-year-old “wants to be self-represented in this case.”

“The way he presented was rational and someone who was not suffering any mental disability,” Peters said.

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