New Zealand officials said on October 18 that armed police will patrol the streets of the country in trial project amid escalated security concerns after the mass shooting in Christchurch in March that killed at least 51 people. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world like the UK and Norway where police do not carry guns during their general duty. Their handguns, rifles, and tasers are kept in their vehicles and can be used with a supervisor's permission. The crime rate is relatively low in New Zealand although the front-line police were armed for several weeks following the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 by a white supremacist.
The attack came up with a debate on whether all police should carry firearms. Mike Bush, the police commissioner said in a statement on Friday that their operating environment has changed following the attacks on March 15 in Christchurch. He added that police must make sure that their people are well equipped and enabled to perform their roles safely so that they can ensure their communities feel safe. The armed units will be deployed in New Zealand's largest city, Manukau county in Auckland and Waikato and Canterbury on October 28 on a six-month trial basis. Bush said they will be strategically armed, equipped, mobile, and ready to support front-line police officers during the incidents that require enhanced tactical capabilities. He said there was no immediate threat.
Brenton Tarrant, an Australian national who has been charged over the Christchurch attack has pleaded not guilty to 92 charges against him and faced trials May. The threat levels have been heightened around the country since the mass shootings and 1400 firearms have been seized from offenders since March. Stuart Nash, the police minister said the move did not mean that the police would be armed routinely. He said that the three areas have been aimed for trials because of the incidence of crimes involving armed offenders.
Weeks after the Christchurch shootings, the government banned semi-automatic and high-caliber guns to prevent any future incidents. They also introduced a gun amnesty scheme. There are an estimated 1.5 million guns in the country. More than 29000 firearms have been collected so far according to the data provided on the police website.