Reports of New Zealanders Turning in Their Guns Greatly Exaggerated

“If you are thinking about surrendering your weapon, I would encourage you to do so.”

American media outlets have made much of New Zealand authorities’ push to get citizens to turn in their firearms to police in the wake of a terror attack that targeted two mosques and left at least 50 people dead.

CNN profiled one man who gave up his gun earlier in the week. Newsweek quoted the same man in their piece. “New Zealanders turning over firearms after mass shooting” read the headline of a report from The Hill that has been shared more than 12,000 times.

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The media coverage might lead readers to believe the movement has led to a mass rush of New Zealanders turning in their guns. But a Buzzfeed News report shows that this does not appear to be the case.

Out of an estimated 1.2 million guns currently in circulation in New Zealand, citizens have so far only voluntarily surrendered 37 of them according to estimates by police.

Officials did not provide a breakdown of how many people surrendered the 37 guns, nor did they specify what kind of firearms were surrendered.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, New Zealand’s Prime minister Jacinda Ardern praised gun owners for voluntarily turning in their firearms.

“I want to remind people, you can surrender your gun to the police at any time,” Ardern said. “In fact, I’ve seen reports that people are in fact already doing this. I applaud that effort, and if you are thinking about surrendering your weapon, I would encourage you to do so,” she continued.

The movement to voluntarily surrender firearms generated buzz on social media.

“Until today, I was one of the New Zealanders who owned a semi-automatic rifle,” one person tweeted while explaining why he was surrendering his gun.

Another New Zealander explained they were turning in their guns after 31 years of ownership after having a chance to “reflect” on their thoughts.

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New Zealand’s government passed strict new gun laws on Wednesday. According to Prime Minister Ardern, the measures will introduce strict controls for “military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles.”

In a news conference announcing the new law, Ardern said the aim is to make New Zealand a safer place.

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

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned,” she continued.

The law is set to take effect in April and a buy-back program costing $138 million will be implemented for banned weapons.

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