Within weeks of a mass shooting that killed 50 people at two Christchurch mosques, New Zealand has introduced legislation that would ban the type of guns used in the attacks.
In first of three votes needed to enact the law, lawmakers almost unanimously voted to ban semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. Even though the measure has yet to be passed, Prime Minister Lucinda Ardern has already used her executive power to prevent sales of the banned weapons to keep people from stockpiling.
In light of such quick measures, here is a look at the effect other mass shootings have had on gun laws around the world.
In 1996, Martin Bryant, then 28, went on a killing spree in Port Arthur, Tasmania. He killed 35 people and wounded 23 others. Australia acted swiftly to enact the National Firearms Agreement, which banned the use of all semiautomatic rifles, shotguns and pump-action shotguns. It also mandated that all gun owners provide authorities with a reason for possessing a firearm, register all weapons with authorities and undergo safety training. Australia also instituted a gun buyback program that took more than 600,000 weapons out of private hands.
In 1987, after unemployed laborer Michael Ryan, 27, used a copy of a Kalashnikov AK-47 to kill 16 people and then himself in Hungerford, England, Britain outlawed semiautomatic weapons and limited the sales of some types of shotguns.
But the response was far greater after Thomas Hamilton, 43, used several handguns to kill 16 children and their teacher at Dunblane Primary School in Scotland in 1996. The 1997 Firearms Act banned virtually all private citizens from owning handguns. The law also made it harder to own sporting rifles by demanding far-reaching background checks. The government also instituted a gun buyback program that took tens of thousands of firearms out of private hands.
In 1989, Marc Lepine, 25, stormed a Montreal engineering school armed with a semiautomatic rifle and killed 14 female students. The violent act shocked a nation that already had tough restrictions on automatic weapons and handguns. Lawmakers reacted by passing laws requiring registration and licensing of all rifles and other long guns, which account for a majority of firearms in Canada. But it didn’t last. The highly unpopular national gun registry was abolished in 2012.
In 2002, Robert Steinhauser, 19, a student expelled from a high school in the eastern city of Erfurt, returned to the school armed with a rifle and a handgun and killed 13 staff members, two students and a police officer before taking his own life. Within months, German lawmakers raised the legal age for carrying sporting weapons from 18 to 21 and made a psychiatric evaluation mandatory for gun buyers younger than 25.
Another school shooting, in the southwest town of Winnenden in 2009, led to further legislation. Tim Kretschmer, 17, returned to his school and killed 15 people, including nine students, most of them female. Germany acted immediately to toughen its gun laws, including allowing police to spot-check the homes of gun owners and impose fines if weapons are not locked away.
In 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, then 32, detonated a car bomb in Oslo, killing eight people and then used a semiautomatic rifle and a pistol to kill 69 people, mostly teens, at a youth summer camp organized by the Norwegian Labor Party on the island of Utoya. At the time, Norway already had strict gun laws on the books. But it has taken years for Norway to change its laws. Last year, Oslo announced plans to ban semiautomatic weapons by 2021 – a decade after the massacre.
Like other countries, the U.S. passed some of its strictest gun laws after major acts of violence.
In 1934, high-profile gangland crimes, such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago that killed seven, prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign a law that required gun owners to register machine guns, short-barrel rifles and shotguns. It also imposed a $200 tax on transfers of those weapons. The same tax remains today.
In 1968, the assassinations of President John Kennedy, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy saw the introduction of the Gun Control Act, which banned interstate shipments of weapons and ammunition to private individuals. It also prohibited the sale of guns to minors, felons, fugitives, drug addicts and “mental incompetents.” But in 1986, some of the restrictions were lifted, allowing dealers to sell firearms through the mail.
The Brady Bill was named after James Brady, who as President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, was shot in the head during an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981. The legislation required unlicensed gun buyers to undergo background checks from licensed businesses, but not during private transactions.
Other shootings brought mixed legislative results.
In response to a 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, in which Stephen Paddock, 64, killed 58 people and wounded more than 800 from his casino hotel room, the Trump administration banned the use of bump stocks, devices that let rifles fire like machine guns. The rapid-fire device was used by the gunman who killed 58 people and wounded more than 800 from his hotel room in a Las Vegas casino in 2017. The ban went into effect last month but is still being contested in the courts.
In 2018, Nikolas Cruz, then 19, who had been expelled from a high school in Parkland, Florida, is accused of using an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 17 students and faculty. A year later, several states, including Florida, have passed gun control legislation in response. The Florida Legislature raised the age to purchase guns to 21 from 18, banned people legally judged “mentally defective” from buying a gun, and set up a system for law enforcement to take guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
But other mass shootings resulted in little if any gun control legislation. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 children and six staff members, renewed public debate of gun control measures, such as background checks on firearm sales, but Congress passed no major legislation related to the Connecticut shooting.