New Zealand prime minister promises changes to nation's gun laws

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised students grieving for three young classmates killed in last Friday's mass shooting in Christchurch, that changes to the nation's gun laws will be proposed by next Monday. 

"Many of you will have seen we have a lot of holes in our gun laws in New Zealand and we need to fix that," said the Prime Minister. She encouraged the students to focus on their friends rather than the suspected gunman, a self-proclaimed white nationalist who killed fifty people at two mosques in Christchurch.

"It's their names and their stories that we need to keep telling. And it's them that we need to honor," said the Prime Minister. 

One of the students killed, a fifteen-year-old teen named Hamza, was buried with his father Khalid Mustafa, 44, on Wednesday. Father and son were carried to their graves as a crowd of mourners prayed and encircled Hamza's younger brother who was rolled to the gravesite in a wheelchair. 

Hamza was remembered as a hardworking and compassionate boy who excelled at riding horses and wanted to be a veterinarian. 

Investigators say the gunman had five firearms. Two were semi-automatic weapons.

Possible New Zealand gun law reforms could include a total ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, new requirements to register firearms, and the elimination of an on-line police background-check system.

"If  those things are passed it would mean New Zealand would have far stronger gun laws than the U.S.," said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director at the Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.

"We are so saddened and devastated to hear this news out of New Zealand. We get so hardened to it, hearing it so often here and we just know from facing it every day what a tragic and horrific situation it is for the people of New Zealand and our hearts and prayers go out to them," said Thomas, "We support so much of what this Prime Minister is doing to take this tragedy and make sure it doesn't happen again." 

Thomas says she has seen action on the state level in the U.S. since the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. In the past year, Thomas says 66 new laws passed in 27 states since the tragedy in Parkland. 

Thomas say the Parkland students' persistance to see laws change have made a difference. She described seeing students filling the room where Thomas testified before the House Judiciary Committee last February on two gun laws..

"The entire room was filled with students wearing March for our Lives t-shirts. And it's rare to see students at Congressional Hearings and even more rare to see them lining up at 6 or 7 in the morning to make sure they get a seat," said Thomas. 

Two bills passed the Democratic-controlled House and now go to the Republican-controlled Senate. 

H.R. 8 would require background checks for gun private purchases, online transactions, and at gun shows. 

H.R. 1112 would extend the wait time for firearms dealers to receive background check results from three days to ten days. 

In New Zealand, some gun owners say they support a change in their laws following Friday's shooting.

"The utility or convenience of a semi-automatic rifle weighed up against the possibility of another tragedy like we've witnessed in New Zealand is really not a difficult comparison at all," said John Hart, a Christchurch gun owner.

The Prime Minister also vowed that she would not say the name of the 28-year-old Australian man charged with wielding the guns, who broadcast video of himself entering the first mosque and firing at people during the massacre.

"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."

The suspect has been put in isolation and his next court appearance is set for April 5th.

New Zealand police say the FBI has sent agents to Wellington to assist with the investigation.