49 people have been killed, and at least 20 seriously injured, after shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
New Zealand police say they have arrested three men and one woman. One man has already been charged with murder. An account believed to belong to one of the attackers featured a link to an 87-page manifesto filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim ideas.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described the attack as an “unprecedented act of violence” and called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” Meanwhile, police have mobilized every national police resource to respond to the attack.
New Zealand commissioner Mike Bush said the attack was “very well-planned,” adding mosques across the country would remain under police protection for the moment.
Asked why the attackers weren’t on New Zealand watchlists, Bush said the four people in custody weren’t on any Australian security watch lists either.
At least one of the attackers has already been confirmed as an Australian citizen.
Bush wanted to commend the work of police officers who went “above and beyond” to apprehend the offenders and protect the community during the attack.
New Zealand is not used to mass shootings of the kind seen at the two mosques in Christchurch on Friday that killed at least 40 people and left 48 injured.
Until Friday, the biggest massacre in the country’s history happened 30 years ago, when a man named David Gray went on a shooting rampage, killing 13 people.
Following the attack, the nation’s gun laws — which were first passed in 1983 — came under scrutiny. The ensuing debate led to a 1993 amendment on the regulation of military-style semi-automatic firearms.
The country’s gun laws are still considered to be relatively relaxed compared to non-US nations — gun owners do need a license but they aren’t required to register their guns.
While authorities do not know exactly how many legally or illegally owned firearms are currently in circulation in New Zealand, estimates put the number at about 1.2 million, according to New Zealand Police.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, if a person wants to buy a gun, they must be over the age of 16 and pass a police background check.
New Zealand police officers are not routinely armed, but recent figures suggest more officers are in favor of carrying guns.
A 2017 survey from the New Zealand Police Associated showed that that 66% of its members support arming officers, according to TVNZ.
That figure has significantly increased from a decade ago when 48% of officers supported general arming in 2008.
New Zealand also has a low murder rate, with a total of 35 homicides in 2017 — less than the number of people who died in Friday’s double mosque attack.
Follow us on Twitter @aprecon
Follow on Instagram @_aprecon
Like our Page on FB @aprecon