By Praveen Menon
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand on Monday said it aims to establish a national register for firearms, tighten licensing rules and ban visitors from buying guns, in a second set of reforms introduced in response to a mass shooting in March.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern banned military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) and assault rifles in the first phase of reforms introduced days after a lone gunman attacked worshippers at two mosques in the city of Christchurch on March 15, killing 51 people.
The second set of law changes would establish a register of firearms and license holders, tighten rules to get and keep a firearms license, and tighten the rules for gun dealers to get and keep a license, Ardern told a news conference on Monday.
The reform would also enshrine in law that owning a firearm is a privilege, she said.
"The terror attack on March 15 highlighted the flaws in our licensing system,” Ardern said.
"The changes announced today have been decades in the making. It is now up to this parliament to deliver in the interests of public and personal safety,” said Ardern.
Under the new law, licenses would have to be renewed every five years and visitors to New Zealand would not be allowed to buy guns.
Authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, a suspected white supremacist, with murder following the Christchurch attacks.
Tarrant has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Legislators voted almost unanimously in April to change the gun laws.
A firearm buy-back scheme was also introduced. Owners have until Dec. 20 to hand in their weapons and the government has set aside NZ$208 million ($140.63 million) to compensate them.
With a population of just under 5 million and an estimated 1.5 million firearms, New Zealand ranks 17th in the world in terms of civilian firearm ownership, the Small Arms Survey shows.
The government has faced criticism from some quarters for rushing through the reforms.
The opposition National Party, which supported the government's first phase of gun reform, said the new changes imposed more regulation and costs on law-abiding people.
Many farmers in New Zealand own guns, which they use for killing pests such as possums and rabbits, and for putting down injured stock.
Gun Control NZ co-founder Hera Cook said New Zealand can’t afford political game playing with these laws.
"Too many previous attempts to create sensible gun laws have failed. This time has to be different," Cook said.
(Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Robert Birsel)