FILE PHOTO: Firearms and accessories are displayed at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
April 12, 2019
SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Zealand’s state pension fund will sell off investments of NZ$19 million ($13 million) in makers of weapons outlawed by tough new firearms laws following the country’s worst peacetime mass shooting, it said on Friday.
Lawmakers voted almost unanimously this week to ban military-style semi-automatic guns and assault rifles less than a month after a lone gunman used them to kill 50 worshippers in attacks on mosques in Christchurch.
“Companies involved in the manufacture of civilian automatic and semi-automatic firearms, magazines or parts prohibited under New Zealand law have been excluded from the NZ$41 billion NZ Super Fund,” the fund said on its website.
The move was a response to the new law, it said, and identified holdings in seven companies to be affected by its decision, including American Outdoor Brands Corp, Sturm, Ruger & Co Inc and NOF Corp.
The others are Vista Outdoor Inc, OLIN Corp, Richemont and Daicel Corp.
Others may be identified in future, added the fund, which gave no timeframe for its divestments.
Makers of tobacco and some other munitions are already excluded from its investment mandate.
Authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, with 50 counts of murder following the Christchurch attacks.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
FILE PHOTO: Firearms and accessories are displayed at Gun City gunshop in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
April 11, 2019
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand police expect tens of thousands of firearms to be surrendered in a guns buy-back scheme after parliament passed tough new firearm laws in the wake of the country’s worst peacetime mass shooting.
Lawmakers in New Zealand voted almost unanimously on Wednesday to change gun laws, less than a month after a lone gunman killed 50 people in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch.
The new legislation bars the circulation and use of most semi-automatic firearms, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatic firearms, magazines over a certain capacity, and some shotguns. This includes the gun used by the suspect in the Christchurch shooting.
It granted an amnesty until Sept. 30 for people to surrender prohibited items. More than 300 weapons had already been handed in, police minister Stuart Nash told parliament.
Police Deputy Police Commissioner Michael Clement told a news conference on Thursday that they are not sure how many guns they would receive as New Zealand has no law requiring people to register firearms.
“Its a great unknown question…everybody appreciates that there is no register of firearms with regards to the type of firearms we are talking about,” Clement said.
“So It could be in the tens of thousands, it could be more,” he added.
There are about 1.2-1.5 million firearms in New Zealand, according to gunpolicy.org. Of these, the government has said that a record of licenses show 13,500 firearms are military style semi-automatics (MSSAs). But the number could be higher.
Clement said details are being worked out of the gun buy-back scheme and he urged gun owners in possession of the prohibited firearms to register online.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has estimated that the gun buy-backs would cost the government between NZ$100-200 million but other government ministers have warned that the costs could be higher depending on how many guns are handed to the police.
Authorities have charged Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, with 50 counts of murder following the Christchurch attacks on March 15.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Michael Perry)
FILE PHOTO: Worker Marilyn MacKay assembles a rifle at the Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc. gun factory in Newport, New Hampshire January 6, 2012. REUTERS/Eric Thayer/File Photo
April 9, 2019
By Ross Kerber
BOSTON (Reuters) – Investor activists said on Monday they will campaign to unseat two directors at gunmaker Sturm Ruger & Co, citing what they called its resistance to their concerns after shareholders won a battle over safety at last year’s annual meeting.
The plan for this year’s gathering, set for May 8 in New Hampshire, promises to renew a debate over how the company might respond to a series of mass shootings across the United States, including at schools, houses of worship and workplaces.
The activists include Majority Action, a liberal-leaning shareholder group, and religious investors affiliated with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. While they hold a small number of Sturm Ruger shares, last year members of Interfaith Center won backing for a resolution from fund companies including top Ruger shareholders BlackRock Inc and Vanguard Group, showing an ability to set the agenda.
This year the activists said they will call on other investors to vote “withhold” on Sturm Ruger Chairman Michael Jacobi and on company director Sandra Froman, who is also a director of the National Rifle Association and was its president from 2005 to 2007.
Eli Kasargod-Staub, Majority Action’s executive director, said in an interview that Sturm Ruger should take a harder look at “smart gun” technology and hold talks with investors, dialogue it has rejected in the past.
He also said the company should step back from divisive cultural issues promoted by the NRA. Together, the topics “are the kind of issues that can and have been productively engaged on through dialogue with long-term investors at other companies,” he said.
A Sturm Ruger spokesman did not respond to messages on Monday.
Sturm Ruger and Smith & Wesson parent American Outdoor Brands Corp have faced new attention from gun safety activists after 17 people were killed at a mass shooting at a Florida high school in early 2018.
At Sturm Ruger’s annual meeting last May a resolution that called on the company to produce a report on the safety of its products won about two-thirds of votes cast over the company’s opposition. The document issued in February outlines safety features, improved background checks and other steps Sturm Ruger has taken, though the company cast doubt on the viability of smart guns and other technical changes suggested by the activists.
Top fund firms also backed all company directors despite their rare stance of avoiding talks with investors.
Sturm Ruger Chief Executive Christopher Killoy said at the meeting that fair disclosure rules kept it from speaking with BlackRock or Vanguard, although such meetings are common elsewhere.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Leslie Adler)
Flowers and cards are seen at the memorial site for the victims of Friday’s shooting, outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su
April 4, 2019
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Australian man accused of killing 50 Muslim worshippers in gun attacks on two mosques in Christchurch will face 50 murder charges and 39 attempted murder charges, New Zealand police said on Thursday.
“Other charges are still under consideration,” police said in a statement.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was previously charged with only one murder following the attack and has been remanded without a plea.
He is due back in court on Friday. The March 15 attack was the worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in New Zealand.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
FILE PHOTO: A police officer stands guard outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo
March 30, 2019
By Charlotte Greenfield and Praveen Menon
CHRISTCHURCH/WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Weeks before a gunman killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, a man had threatened to burn copies of the Koran outside New Zealand mosques, in what community leaders said was the latest in a long list of threatening behavior against religious minorities.
Police said they warned a 38-year-old man over the incident, which was unrelated to the Christchurch attack, but could not say if it was part of a pattern.
That’s because, unlike many Western countries including the United Kingdom and the United States, New Zealand’s government keeps no comprehensive record of hate crimes, failing to act on requests to do so from local and international agencies spanning more than a decade.
“For many years our view has consistently been that this needs to be prioritized and implemented urgently,” said Janet Anderson-Bidois, Chief Legal Adviser at the Human Rights Commission, the independent government agency tasked with protecting human rights.
“It is imperative that we have good data.”
A suspected white supremacist has been charged with murder over the Christchurch shootings and will appear in court again on April 5.
In the wake of New Zealand’s worst mass shooting, questions are being asked about what signs agencies missed and where resources should have been allocated to protect vulnerable communities.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ordered a Royal Commission, a powerful form of inquiry, into the attack.
Anwar Ghani from the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, said anecdotal evidence suggested there had been a rise in anti-Muslim behavior in recent years.
“When there is a hot spot in global events and when Muslims are involved…we do see the pulse of hate crime coming from certain members of the community,” he said.
“NOT A PRIORITY”
Joris De Bres, New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner between 2002 and 2013, said he was alarmed at signs of an uptick in threats against Muslims when he took up the role soon after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
De Bres said he repeatedly asked the government and police to create a central system for recording details about crimes motivated by hatred and racism.
He raised the issue with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which in its 2007 review of New Zealand said the lack of records was a concern, and asked the government to collect data on complaints of racially motivated crimes.
“I listed it every year…I wrote at various points to government about it and it was simply said that it wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t a priority,” De Bres said.
In its latest report on New Zealand in 2017, the UN committee repeated its concerns and requests and asked the government to provide the data for its next report as a priority.
When current Justice and Intelligence Services Minister Andrew Little took office in late 2017, the Human Rights Commission said in their incoming briefing the country needed a central system for recording details about crimes motivated by hatred and racism and steps currently taken by police were insufficient.
“Understanding the scale, extent, and location of hate crimes is essential and is a prerequisite to ensuring adequate resources are available to address the issue,” the briefing said.
Little did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment but told local media on Saturday that current hate speech laws were inadequate and he would work with officials to review the legislation, including considering whether a separate hate crime offense should be created.
Police said they took hate crimes seriously and were continually looking to improve the way they worked.
“We are engaged in ongoing conversations with community leaders and representatives about a range of issues, including how police record allegations of hate crime and crimes of prejudice,” said a police spokesperson via email.
The National Party, in power from 2008 to 2017, said while in government, it introduced legislation to protect people from harmful communication online.
“There are hate speech laws in the Human Rights Act, but whether data should be collected is an operational matter for Police,” a spokeswoman said by email.
NO ONE WAS LISTENING
New Zealand has had no previous extremist mass attacks, unlike neighboring Australia, but civil society members say an underbelly of racism has always existed and may have been escalating.
Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand said the group had repeatedly alerted the government over the past five years about the rise of the extreme right and the growing threat Muslim women felt in New Zealand.
“Without the data, without the measurement it’s really hard to push for change…I feel like it wasn’t taken seriously because it wasn’t hard data because we didn’t have it,” she said, adding she felt “a resistance to creating that data.”
One in 10 New Zealand adults have experienced hate speech online according to a 2018 study by internet safety organization Netsafe, with people of Asian descent or who identified as ‘other’ ethnicity most affected.
Since 2002, a law has specified judges should take hostility toward a group of people with a “common characteristic”, such as race or religion, into account when sentencing.
A Reuters review of sentencing records found 22 such cases since 2002, most with a racial motive.
Those included the murder of a Korean student, the hurling of a pipe bomb at a Sikh Temple, and threats to politicians by a non-Muslim posing as an Islamic extremist, which the judge described as a “deliberate attempt to tap into public fear about radicalized Muslims”.
The likely number is far higher, say human rights experts, because accessible records encompass only cases that are appealed or the most severe charges that reach New Zealand’s highest courts, not the tens of thousands of cases dealt with in lower District Courts each year.
One of those was a 2016 case, first reported by the New Zealand Herald, in which a Christchurch man delivered a bloodied pig’s head to Al Noor mosque, which was attacked this month.
He was charged with “offensive behavior” and fined NZ$800 ($543), court records show.
In 2017, lawmakers asked police whether hate crime was increasing but were told it could not be measured because it was not recorded as a specific category, according to Parliamentary records.
The Human Rights Commission said it received 417 complaints relating to race in 2018, up from 350 in 2014. Those included 63 complaints of “racial disharmony”, which includes hate speech, a 26 percent jump from four years earlier.
Lawmaker Golriz Ghahraman, a former human rights lawyer who was born in Iran and came to New Zealand as a child refugee, said she had received death threats and xenophobia including being called a “terrorist” and “Jihadist” online.
Before the Christchurch attacks, most of the public had felt safe, she said.
“Minorities didn’t, but no one was listening to them.”
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Praveen Menon.; Editing by Lincoln Feast)
FILE PHOTO – People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday’s shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
March 28, 2019
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Representatives of governments from around the world are expected to attend a national remembrance service in New Zealand on Friday for the 50 victims of a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch.
“This is an event that affected New Zealand deeply. But it was our Muslim New Zealanders who were targeted. So rightly so, that would be reflected in the remembrance service,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will be represented at the service, but the full list of the attendees from 59 countries was withheld for security reasons, as the country has been on high alert since the March 15 attack.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the governor general Peter Cosgrove and opposition leader Bill Shorten will be among foreign leaders attending the service, Ardern said.
Heads of state from Pacific countries, including Fiji’s President Jioji Konkrote will also be in attendance, she added.
The service will be held in Christchurch in Hagley Park, where tens of thousands of New Zealanders have gathered since the attack to mourn the deaths. It will be televised live on state television networks.
Britain’s Prince William will visit New Zealand next month to honour the victims, his office said.
The massacre in New Zealand was carried out by a lone gunman at two mosques. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with one murder following the attack and is likely to face more charges when he is presented in court on April 5.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
FILE PHOTO – Britain’s Prince William speaks during a reception at the British Consulate General in Jerusalem, June 27, 2018. Debbie Hill/Pool via Reuters
March 27, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince William will visit New Zealand next month to honor the 50 victims of the mass shooting at mosques two weeks ago, his office said on Wednesday.
William, the Duke of Cambridge, will make the trip on behalf of his 92-year-old grandmother Queen Elizabeth, New Zealand’s head of state, following a request from its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“The Duke will meet with those affected by the attack and will pay tribute to the extraordinary compassion and solidarity that the people of New Zealand have displayed in recent weeks,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.
William and other senior royals have already spoken of their horror at the March 15 attack on two mosques in Christchurch for which a suspected white supremacist has been charged with murder.
“This senseless attack is an affront to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand, and the broader Muslim community. It is a horrifying assault on a way of life that embodies decency, community, and friendship,” William said.
“We know that from this devastation and deep mourning, the people of New Zealand will unite to show that such evil can never defeat compassion and tolerance.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)