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Sanders: ‘We Must Follow New Zealand’s Lead’ on Assault-Rifle Ban

Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.) speaks at a campaign rally in Concord, N.H., March 10, 2019. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) on Thursday praised New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern for immediately banning military-style semi-automatic weapons in response to the Christchurch mosque shootings, and suggested the executive action should serve as a blueprint for the U.S.

The ban, which applies to semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that can be equipped with detachable magazines capable of holding more than five rounds, went into immediate effect Thursday to prevent stockpiling, and legislation codifying it is expected to pass Parliament in the coming days. Once the bill passes, New Zealanders will be granted a buyback period, after which they will be fined and jailed for up to three years if found in possession of a banned weapon.

“On 15 March, our history changed forever. Now, our laws will, too,” Ardern said Thursday. “We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.”

Gun ownership is popular in New Zealand but there is no right to self defense codified in the country’s laws.

The announcement comes just six days after a 28-year-old Australian man killed 50 people and injured 40 others while rampaging through two mosques in Christchurch. The second shooting, at the Linwood mosque, was interrupted after one congregant retrieved his firearm from his house and returned to confront the attacker.

While the exact weapon used in the attack remains unknown, images of the weapon appear to show an AR-15, a widely available semi-automatic rifle.

Prior to the attack, the shooter published an extensive manifesto online that was replete with white-nationalist propaganda and mentioned stirring controversy around the U.S. gun-control debate as one motive for the massacre.

Sanders, who was criticized by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic primaries for being too moderate on the issue of gun control, has in recent years embraced the Democratic establishment’s insistence on banning assault rifles outright.

Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), who has helped lead Democrats’ gun-control efforts since the Sandy Hook massacre, also praised Ardern’s swift action in a Thursday tweet.

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