New Zealand shooter's arsenal of weapons included an AR-15, the same assault rifle used in the 2017 Las Vegas attack
The Christchurch mass shooting has seen an increase in calls for the country to tighten its existing gun laws further.
There have been increased calls for New Zealand to toughen its gun laws after 28-year-old Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant walked into the Al-Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque in Christchurch during the Friday prayers with a semiautomatic rifle and open fired.
The mass shooting left 49 dead and at least 20 injured, making it not just the worst such incident in the country's history, but also one of the worst the world has ever seen. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters at a press conference that Tarrant had used two semiautomatic rifles, two shotguns, and a lever-action firearm to carry out the massacre and that he had licenses for all them. She also said he wasn't on any watchlists prior to the attack.
Speaking to ABC News, Deakin University's counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton said one of the weapons Tarrant used was an AR-15 — the same firearm used by Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock during the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting which left 58 dead and over 851 injured.
"The attacker was using a couple of guns, one was a shotgun, one was an AR-15 — that's the so-called civilian equivalent of the M-16. It's an assault rifle," Barton said. "That shows the difference that one weapon can make. We haven't seen these assault weapons used in Australia and New Zealand. I think now we've got to face the fact that they're at large."
New Zealand reportedly has one gun for every four residents, which is twice the number of guns per person compared to neighboring Australia, which tightened their gun laws following the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, which left 35 dead, and made it illegal to possess an unregistered firearm. Australia, which has the tightest gun control policies in the Pacific, also severely restricted the ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons after the mass shooting.
Meanwhile, New Zealand, which ranks 18th in the world for the rate of civilian gun ownership, is one of just two countries, along with the US, which does not have a national gun register. Civilians are also allowed to own a "military-style semi-automatic firearm" if they are above 18.
Barton was one of many who questioned the current laws after Tarrant was able to access such weapons to carry out the massacre. "New Zealand doesn't have a gun register, so in that sense, many people have for years been calling for a gun register and tighter control," he said. "You would have thought getting an assault rifle was very hard, not like it is in America where it's very easy."
John Battersby, a security expert from Wellington's Massey University, similarly told ABC, "We actually probably don't know how many legal firearms there are in New Zealand and we certainly don't know how many illegal firearms there are. How these individuals have got hold of these weapons, that's going to be a big question."
Tarrant, who was charged with murder in the aftermath of the shooting, appeared at the Christchurch District Court on Saturday, March 16, to face his charges.