The main suspect in New Zealand's worst peacetime mass shooting intended to continue the rampage before he was caught by police, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday. She also vowed to change New Zealand gun laws.
The offender was mobile, there were two other firearms in the vehicle that the offender was in, and it absolutely was his intention to continue with his attack, Ardern told reporters in Christchurch.
I'm not privileged to a full breakdown at this point but it is clear that young children have been caught up in this horrific attack, she said regarding victims of the attack.
PM Ardern also vowed to toughen the country's gun laws after revealing that the man charged with murdering 49 people in two mosques legally purchased the arsenal of firearms used in the massacre.
The gunman, 28-year-old Australian, obtained a Category A gun license in November 2017 and began purchasing the five weapons used in Friday's attacks in the southern city of Christchurch the following month.
The firearms included two semi-automatic rifles, two shotguns and a lever-action weapon, she said.
The mere fact ... that this individual had acquired a gun license and acquired weapons of that range, then obviously I think people will be seeking change, and I'm committing to that, she said.
While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun license, and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now - our gun laws will change.
Ardern noted several earlier attempts to reform the laws in 2005, 2012 and 2017. She said options to consider would include a ban on semi-automatic weapons.
She also confirmed that the gunman and two suspected associates who were also arrested had not been on the radar of any intelligence agencies, even though he had published a manifesto online indicating plans for attacks on Muslims.
They were not on any watch-lists either here or in Australia, she said.
The individual charged with murder had not come to the attention of the intelligence community, nor the police, for extremism, she added.
I have asked our agencies this morning to work swiftly on assessing whether there was any activity on social media or otherwise, that should have triggered a response. That work is already underway.
Given global indicators around far-right extremism, our intelligence community has been stepping up their investigations in this area.”
In New Zealand anyone over 16 can apply for a standard firearms license after doing a safety course, which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised. Regular police in New Zealand do not carry firearms, relying on specialist special force units.