New Zealand pledges gun control as mosque 'gunman' sacks lawyer

New Zealand pledges gun control as mosque 'gunman' sacks lawyer

CHRISTCHURCH
New Zealand pledges gun control as mosque gunman sacks lawyer

New Zealand will tighten gun laws in the wake of its worst modern-day massacre, the government said on March 18, as it emerged that the white supremacist accused of carrying out the killings at two mosques will represent himself in court.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her coalition was unified on the need to reduce the availability of the kind of weapons used by Brenton Tarrant as he went room to room shooting Muslims gathered for Friday prayers.

"We have made a decision as a cabinet, we are unified," she said, flanked by her coalition partner and deputy prime minister, Winston Peters.

Peters, whose New Zealand First party has previously opposed changes, said he backed the prime minister fully.

Ardern, the youthful premier who has become the face of the nation's tragedy, said there would be an inquiry into the horrifying attack, as questions swirl over whether intelligence agencies should have spotted warning signs.

The role of social media has also come under the spotlight, after the gunman livestreamed his rampage on Facebook.

A teenager, whose name cannot be published, appeared in court on March 18 charged with distributing that footage.

Grief continued to wash across the nation on March 18, with New Zealanders of all stripes gathering to express revulsion over the killings- and a unified front against racial hatred.

Family and friends outside Al Noor mosque- the scene of the largest massacre- held a sunset prayer session, with their mournful cries echoing through a park as locals looked on.

Tarrant, who appeared in court on March 16 charged with murder, on March 18 sacked his state-appointed lawyer.

Richard Peters, who represented the alleged killer during the hearing, told AFP the 28-year-old "wants to be self-represented in this case.”

"The way he presented was rational and someone who was not suffering any mental disability. He seemed to understand what was going on," Peters said.

In the meantime, Tarrant briefly visited Israel in 2016, Israeli officials said on March 18.

Tarrant arrived on a three-month tourist visa and stayed in Israel for nine days in October 2016, immigration authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said.

New Zealand, shooting, Terror