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christchurch shooting
April 15, 2019

New Zealand is taking an active approach to ensure video of the deadly mass shootings that took place at two mosques in Christchurch in March remains banned.

The Associated Press reports six people appeared before a New Zealand court on Monday on charges that they illegally redistributed the livestreamed video originally shared by the alleged gunman, Brenton Tarrant, who faces 50 murder charges. Two of the six people have been in custody since March.

Philip Arps, a 44-year-old who runs an insulation firm, reportedly smiled and winked at members of the public while appearing before the court, per RNZ National. He was denied bail. The same is true for an unnamed 18-year-old suspect who reportedly shared Tarrant's video and a still image of one of the mosques with the caption "target acquired."

New Zealand's chief censor has banned both the video and Tarrant's racist, anti-immigrant manifesto which was posted online before the shootings took place. Redistributing either is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment. Tim O'Donnell

April 10, 2019

New Zealand's Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons less than one month after mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch left 50 dead.

Just six days following the violence, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she was introducing a change to the country's gun laws. Her bill passed easily, 119-1, and now only needs to be approved by the governor general to become law. That final step is expected to go ahead without hindrance, per the BBC. Ardern reportedly held back tears when she addressed Parliament on Wednesday, telling lawmakers they were acting for "the victims and families" of the Christchurch shootings.

The lone holdout on the bill was the ACT Party, whose leader, David Seymour, said the party did not oppose gun reform in general but believed this version of the bill was "an exercise in political theater."

Ardern's government has also proposed a buyback scheme for people who own the type of guns that are now banned. The legislation will allow amnesty until the end of September for owners to relinquish their weapons.

RNZ reports the another phase of reform is also planned, including more restrictions in the vetting process and a firearms registry. Tim O'Donnell

March 24, 2019

The Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand has reclaimed a place of worship. On Saturday, the restored Al-Noor mosque, one of the sites of the mass shootings that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, was reopened.

It remains under heavy police detail, but small groups of worshippers are now allowed in for limited periods of time, reports RNZ National. Although the mosque has been completely restored following the damage, those who enter have been asked to refrain from taking photographs. Several survivors of the shootings, carried about by a 28-year-old Australian named Brenton Tarrant who expressed racist, anti-immigrant views, were among the first people to return to the mosque.

On Saturday, nearly 40,000 people turned out for a vigil in Christchurch on Saturday evening, as the country continues to mourn the attacks. Saturday’s vigil, which included speeches, music, and moments of silence, is the latest in a string of remembrance events that have and will continue to take place around New Zealand. Tim O'Donnell

March 23, 2019

New Zealand continues to act swiftly in its response to the mass shootings that claimed 50 lives at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last week.

The manifesto, believed to be written by Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian who has been charged with the murder of 50 people, is now illegal in the country, New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification announced on Saturday. The manifesto, which is more than 80 pages long, is rife with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim content. It was made public online before the shootings occurred and was also sent to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office just minutes before Tarrant allegedly carried out the attack.

"Others have referred to this publication as a 'manifesto', but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism. It is objectionable under New Zealand law," New Zealand's Chief Censor David Shanks said. "It crosses the line."

The decision follows another one made earlier this week which banned footage of the shootings, including edited clips and still images. The New Zealand government also banned semi-automatic rifles and accessories just six days after the shooting. Tim O'Donnell

March 20, 2019

Less than a week after a gunman murdered at least 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern effectively banned the sale of AR-15s and all similar assault rifles Thursday afternoon. "Six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military-style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand," Ardern said. "Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines."

These changes will require legislation, and Ardern said she expects the bans to be enshrined in law by April 11, with a buy-back program put in place afterward. In the meantime, the government has immediately reclassified "virtually all" of the weapons she mentioned so buying them now require a special permit from the police. "I can assure people that there is no point in applying for such a permit," Ardern added.

"I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride," Ardern said. She got immediate backing from the trade group Federated Farmers, which said "this will not be popular among some of our members, but after a week of intense debate and careful consideration by our elected representatives and staff, we believe this is the only practicable solution."

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons after a 1996 mass shooting in which a gunman with an AR-15 murdered 35 people. Peter Weber

March 19, 2019

In a statement released late Monday, Facebook provided a range of updates into its handling of Friday's Facebook Live-streamed New Zealand mosque shooting, in which 50 people were killed. Among its most disturbing revelations: that though the video was viewed approximately "200 times during the live broadcast," nobody reported it to the service for 29 minutes, or a full 12 minutes after it ended — by which time it had been "viewed about 4,000 times."

Facebook also said that it had removed a staggering 1.5 million videos of the shooting in the first 24 hours after the attack, 1.2 million of which had been "blocked at upload." Despite this, The Washington Post notes that the video nonetheless spread to other platforms, including YouTube, in the hours after the massacre.

The shooting — the third such incident to be broadcast on Facebook Live since the feature's public debut in 2016 — has led to widespread criticism of Facebook and other social media platforms, including by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. "We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published," said Ardern on Tuesday that. "This cannot be a case of all profit, no responsibility."

Facebook said that "We remain shocked and saddened by this tragedy and are committed to working with leaders in New Zealand, other governments, and across the technology industry to help counter hate speech and the threat of terrorism." Jacob Lambert

March 18, 2019

On Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she and her Cabinet agreed in principle to a set of changes to the country's gun laws that will be unveiled within 10 days. In her news conference, Ardern also announced an investigation into what intelligence and security services "knew or could or should have known" about the plans of a 28-year-old Australian man arrested for killing 50 people and wounding 40 others at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, "including his access to weapons and whether they could have been in a position to prevent the attack."

Also on Monday, the owner of Christchurch gun shop Gun City, David Tipple, said his store had sold the alleged gunman, Brenton Tarrant, four guns and ammunition through a "police-verified online mail order process." None of the weapons were semiautomatic, military-style rifles, he said. Ardern said the gunman used five guns, including two semiautomatic rifles modified after they were purchased legally. Currently, people need a license to own guns in New Zealand — 99.6 percent of the 43,509 applications were approved in 2017, The Washington Post reports — and Ardern has discussed banning semiautomatic weapons and requiring a license for each weapon.

Tarrant appeared in court on Saturday and then fired his state-appointed lawyer, saying he wants to represent himself. "He seemed quite clear and lucid," the lawyer, Richard Peters, told the New Zealand Herald. "He didn't appear to me to be facing any challenges or mental impairment, other than holding fairly extreme views." There is concern Tarrant will try to use his trial to spread his professed racially extremist, white nationalist views. Peter Weber

March 17, 2019

Within 24 hours of the shootings in New Zealand mosques that left at least 50 people dead, Facebook removed or blocked 1.5 million videos of the attack, the company said Sunday.

The alleged gunman wore a helmet with a camera attached to it, and livestreamed the shootings on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook New Zealand spokeswoman Mia Garlick said that about 300,000 videos of the terror attack were removed from the social media site, and 1.2 million more were blocked at upload.

"Out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities, we're also removing all edited versions of the video that do not show graphic content," Garlick tweeted, adding that there are monitors working at all hours to keep videos off the platform. Catherine Garcia

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