New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has vowed not to say the name of the man charged with the Christchurch mosque terror attack, in an effort to deny him notoriety.
Ms Ardern used a statement to New Zealand’s Parliament on Tuesday – its first day of sitting since Friday’s horrific attacks – to condemn Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian arrested in relation to the shootings.
“There is one person at the centre of this act of terror against our Muslim community in New Zealand. He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety,” she said.
That is why you will never hear me mention his name. He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist.
“But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”
Tarrant is reported to be planning to represent himself when he stands trial for Friday’s shootings, in which 50 people died and 50 were injured. He faces one charge of murder but is expected to face more when he appears in court again on April 5.
Ms Ardern said efforts had to be made to prevent Tarrant getting the attention he sought.
“To others I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them,” she said.
“He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.”
She said New Zealand’s cabinet had already agreed to hold an inquiry into events leading up to the mosque shootings.
“We will examine what we did know, could have known, or should have known,” she said.
“We cannot allow this to happen again.”
Part of the inquiry would include a “frank examination” of New Zealand’s gun laws. Ms Ardern flagged those changes on Monday, announcing cabinet’s in-principle support for amendments.
“Before we meet again next Monday, these decisions will be announced,” she said on Tuesday.
New Zealanders have already started to voluntarily hand over semi-automatic weapons in anticipation of tighter gun laws.
Questions have been raised about the availability of military-style semi-automatic rifles in New Zealand. Tarrant allegedly used two of the weapons, legally bought, in the mosque attacks, along with three other guns.
Until today I was one of the New Zealanders who owned a semi-automatic rifle. On the farm they are a useful tool in some circumstances, but my convenience doesn’t outweigh the risk of misuse.
We don’t need these in our country.
— John Hart (@farmgeek) March 18, 2019
Farmer John Hart, who has owned a semi-automatic weapon for a decade, said he had handed his to police.
“Once I came to the realisation that any convenience or utility I may have having it around the farm is far outweighed by the risk it poses just by existing … the only way I could go forward with a clear conscience was to not have it,” he told Radio NZ.
“We don’t need these in our country,” he posted on social media.
New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Tuesday he was considering a gun buyback scheme and had been looking into Australia’s experience for help. Australia conducted a successful buyback in the late 1990s, following the massacre at Port Arthur.
“Certainly we’re working on that very idea right now,” he said.
The Christchurch gunman is believed to have carried five guns, legally bought with a licence, and then later illegally modified – an issue also being looked into by cabinet.
The owner of Christchurch gunshop Gun City this week confirmed Tarrant had bought the guns and ammunition online from the store. But David Tipple said none were the military-style semi-automatic rifles used during the attack.
There are an estimated 1.5 million firearms in New Zealand – roughly one for every three citizens. That is more than double the rate in Australia.
There’s no restriction on the number of guns or quantity of ammunition a licensed gun owner can have and pest control is legally considered a reason to own a military-style semi-automatic weapon.
The country’s biggest gun show, Kumeu Militaria, was due to be held on March 23. It has been cancelled out of respect for victims and security concerns.
Trademe, New Zealand’s answer to Ebay, has said it will halt the sale of semi-automatic weapons while awaiting the government’s decisions.