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Ardern Says Terrorist Had Gun Licence And Promises Gun Laws Will Change

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged people in Christchurch to "stay inside and stay safe" the day after twin terror attacks on mosques in the city. 

On Saturday night Ardern's office already confirmed it was among dozens to receive a copy of the alleged Christchurch mosque shooter's "manifesto" minutes before the attack that killed 49 people.

A spokesman from Ardern's office confirmed the document was sent to a generic address not checked by the prime minister herself, as part of a bulk email that also went a number of senior New Zealand political figures and a large number of domestic and international media organisations.

The message, received less than 10 minutes before the attack on Friday, did not set out what was about to happen, he said.

"There was no opportunity to stop it.'

The document had been immediately sent to security and the police.

Earlier on Saturday morning, Ardern revealed five firearms, including two semi-automatic guns and two shotguns were used during the attack.

READ MORE: Man Charged After 49 Killed In Mosque 'Terror Attack'

It's understood the man accused of the attacks acquired a Category A gun licence in November 2017 and was possibly able to acquire the firearms legally with that permit.

In response, Ardern has vowed to change New Zealand's gun laws to make the country a safer place.

I can tell you one thing right now our gun laws will change, Ardern told media on Saturday.

"The mere fact, when people, of course, hear that this individual had acquired a gun licence and acquired weapons of that range, then obviously I think people will be seeking change, and I'm committing to that," she said.

Jacinda Ardern
Ardern vowes to change New Zealand's gun laws. Image: Getty Images.

READ MORE: Jacinda Ardern: 'This Will Be One Of New Zealand's Darkest Days'

Ardern also said she will look to ban semi-automatic guns and that she will move to change New Zealand's guns law quickly.

She also said she would need more time before considering a buy-back scheme similar to that implemented in Australia after the Port Arthur shooting in 1996.

New Zealand's terror alert remains "high" which is unprecedented for the country.

What Is A' Category A' Gun Licence In New Zealand?

Anyone over the age of 16 years is able to apply for a gun licence in New Zealand. Licences allow the holder to use some shotguns, rifles as well as specialty dangerous airguns without supervision.

According to the New Zealand Police website, anyone can use a Category A firearm without a licence as long as they are under the immediate supervision of a licence holder.

'Immediate supervision’ means the licensed person is within reach and can control the firearm. The supervisor must not be using another firearm at the same time,” NZ Police website reads.

People over 18 years of age don’t need a licence to operate an airgun, which is a firearm that shoots pellets using compressed air.

The guns that appear to have been used in the mosque shooting. Image: Facebook.

There are six categories of firearm licences in New Zealand. ‘A Category’ allows a person to legally acquire any number is sporting-type rifles and shotguns. These are firearms make up the vast majority of legally-owned firearms in New Zealand.

Roughly 96 percent of civilian firearms are not registered in New Zealand according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

There is a long application process to successfully apply for a gun licence in New Zealand. The process includes police interviews and security checks. The applicant must also complete a firearms safety program.

Three Attempts To Reform New Zeland Gun Laws Since 2005

Ardern said on Saturday there have been three attempts to reform gun laws in the last 14 years.

“There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change," Ardern said on Saturday.

An inquiry conducted after the shooting of two high-profile police officers in 1997 recommended firearms be individually registered to owners.

The review conducted by the retired High Court judge Sir Thomas Thorp also recommended a buy-back scheme of military-style semi-automatic guns, similar to the type thought to be used in Friday’s mosque attack.

None of the recommendations of the inquiry made it into law.

Ardern has vowed to change New Zealand's gun laws. Image: Getty Images/ Facebook.

Ardern has ordered the relevant firearm authorities to report to Cabinet by Monday.

"With a view to strengthening our systems on a range of fronts including, but not limited to, firearms, border controls, enhanced information-sharing with Australia, and any practice reinforcement of our watch list processes," she said.

New Zealand And Australian Gun Laws Once Very Similar

Before dozens were killed in Port Arthur Massacre in April 1996, New Zealand and Australia's gun laws were similar.

Following Australia's worst mass shooting -- that left 35 dead --  strict gun laws were put in place by the Howard Government. These included a firearms register and a severe restriction on the ownership of semi-automatic firearms.

1996 Gun Buy Back
The Australia Government's gun buy-back. Image: Getty Images.

There was also a government buy-back scheme where firearms were bought from owners in an attempt to remove them from the streets.

Currently, firearms in New Zealand are not required to be registered with police. There is also no ban on semi-automatic firearms.

Civilians in New Zealand can possess a military-style semi-automatic firearm if they are over 18 and have a special police permit. These much be registered and be stored in a specific way.

With AAP.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au