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New Zealand moves to tighten gun laws as Australian police probe links to shooting

Anthony Wallace, AFP | Armed police officers patrol gravesites for victims in Christchurch on March 18, 2019, three days after a shooting incident killed at least fifty people in mosques in the city.

Australian police searched two homes in New South Wales thought to be linked to Friday's shootings at Christchurch mosques as New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her government had agreed in principle to introducing tougher gun laws.

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Australian police have searched two homes in towns on the New South Wales (NSW) mid-north coast linked to the investigation into Friday's mass shootings at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Police said that a search warrant was executed on Monday morning by the state's Joint Counter Terrorism Team (JCTT) at a home in the town of Sandy Beach, near Coffs Harbour, and shortly after another warrant was executed at a home in Lawrence, near Maclean.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and NSW Police declined to identify the owners of the homes.

"The primary aim of the activity is to formally obtain material that may assist New Zealand Police in their ongoing investigation," the agencies said in a joint statement.

They said the family of the Australian man arrested in Christchurch over the shootings were assisting police.

Video: New Zealand to change gun laws after mosque massacre

Australian media said one of the homes belonged to the sister of suspected white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who was charged in New Zealand with murder on Saturday.

Tarrant, who formerly lived in Grafton in the same region where the police searches took place, has been remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face more charges.

Australia is currently assessing risk posed by right-wing extremism and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Monday chair a meeting of the national security committee, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Morrison will be briefed by Duncan Lewis, head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin on the local response to the mass shooting, the source said.

The likelihood of an Australian terror attack remains at "probable", the midpoint of a five-level terror threat ranking that was introduced in 2015.

New Zealand to tighten gun laws

New Zealand, a country that has traditionally had very low homicide rates, has been placed on its highest security threat level after its worst peacetime mass killing.

Fifty people were killed and dozens wounded in the attack at two mosques in the South Island city during Friday prayers.

Prime Minister Ardern said on Monday she would announce new gun laws within days after her government agreed in principle to tougher legislation.

"Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer," she said at a news conference.

Gun reform 'should've happened a long time ago'

Arms dealer David Tipple said the alleged gunman bought four weapons and ammunition online from his Gun City store between December 2017 and March 2018, but it did not sell him the high-powered weapon used in the massacre.

"The MSSA, military-style automatic, reportedly used by the alleged gunman was not purchased from Gun City. Gun City did not sell him an MSSA, only A-category firearms," Tipple told a news conference in Christchurch.

Under New Zealand gun laws, A-category weapons can be semi-automatic but limited to seven shots. Live-streamed video of a gunman in one mosque showed a semi-automatic weapon with a large magazine round.

Tipple said the online purchases followed a police-verified online mail-order process and the store detected nothing extraordinary about the licence holder.

Tipple said he supported Ardern's move to reform gun laws as the Christchurch shootings had raised legitimate concerns.

Ardern did not detail the new gun laws, but has said she supports a ban on automatic weapons.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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