Christchurch : 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.
“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 attack on 15 March was the worst mass shooting by a lone gunman in New Zealand.
The news came as MPs heard oral submissions on the government’s gun law reform bill, which seeks to ban military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs) and assault rifles and related components, and arrange a buyback scheme for guns that become illegal.
The law is being overhauled after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised action in the wake of the mosque shootings, and thousands of written submissions have already been received.
David Tipple, the owner of Gun City, a shop that sold the alleged Christchurch attacker four weapons, told MPs that a buyback scheme could cost $726m, rather than the amount suggested by ministers, which has been between $100m and $300m.
After questioning from Labour MP Michael Wood on the Muslim community’s right to feel safe, Tipple said: “This wasn’t about killing people. It was about dividing people.”
Earlier, Mustafa Farouk, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations NZ, told MPs: “I’m here to represent some of those people who are not able to here because they are dead.”
Fellow federation member Rehanna Ali said the attack had given impetus to gun reform measures. “We want to reclaim the country we had before March 15 … the outpouring of compassion, of shared grief … has gone a great way towards reclaiming who we are, and this legislation will continue on that path.”
Andrew Gilchrist, who oversaw the buyback scheme in New South Wales in Australia after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, told the hearing that the programme faced issues after people all over the country started handing them in. One person had even handed in a World War II-era bazooka.
Responding to claims parliament was rushing the law change, Police Association president Chris Cahill said successive governments had already failed to address the issue. “Is it time to act? Are we being to quick? No, we’ve been far too slow,” he said.
The final submission came from Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel. She told the committee that she sat where they were after the 1990 Aramoana killings, in which 13 people were shot dead. However, the minister back then wasn’t able to gather enough support to ban military-style weapons.
Dalziel said she had read back over the records of those hearings and said it was very distressing it in the context of the Christchurch attack. “The law change must happen without delay,” she said.
The government wants to pass gun reform legislation by Thursday next week.