Accused Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant is a member of a New Zealand gun club where he would fire AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, it has emerged.
Tarrant, 28, originally from Grafton, New South Wales, went to Bruce Rifle Club in Milton on New Zealand’s South Island – near where he had been living in Dunedin.
The club felt ‘betrayed’ after it heard Tarrant was the suspect behind the killing of at least 49 people yesterday.
Police allege that after opening fire inside the Al Noor Mosque, Tarrant drove to the Linwood Masjid Mosque across town and continued his rampage.
Brenton Tarrant, charged in relation to the Christchurch massacre, appears in the dock on murder charge in Christchurch District Court today
Accused Christchurch massacre gunman makes a white power gesture from behind a glass window, during a brief hearing in court
Tarrant described himself as an ‘ordinary, white man’, who was born into a working class, low income family of Scottish, Irish and English descent
Tarrant is a member of Bruce Rifle Club in Milton, near Dunedin, where Tarrant lived. Members of the range shoot during a practice
Bruce Rifle Club was where Tarrant would use a AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. It caters for shooters who own military-style guns
TIMELINE OF TERROR
A 28-year-old Australian man entered a mosque in central Christchurch on Friday afternoon and opened fire on people gathered inside the building – killing at least 49 people and leaving more than 20 seriously injured.
This is how the incident unfolded in local New Zealand Time.
1.40pm: First reports of a shooting at a mosque in central Christchurch.
A man entered the mosque with an automatic weapon and opened fire on people inside.
2.11pm: Police confirmed they were attending an ‘evolving situation’ in Christchruch.
Gunshots are heard in the area outside Masid Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue.
Witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots, with one saying she attempted to give CPR to an injured person but they died.
2.17pm: Multiple schools went into lockdown in Christchurch.
People who were in the mosque began to leave covered in blood and with gunshot wounds.
2.47pm: First reports of six people dead, three in a critical condition and three with serious injuries.
2.54pm: Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the situation is ‘serious and evolving’ and told people to remain indoors and stay off the streets.
The Canterbury District Health Board activated its mass casualty plan.
3.12pm: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cancelled her afternoon arrangements.
3.21pm: Christchurch City Council locked down many of their central city buildings.
3.33pm: First reports of a bomb in a beige Subaru that crashed on Strickland Street, three kilometres from the shootings.
3.40pm: Police confirmed there were multiple simultaneous attacks on mosques in Christchurch.
3.45pm: Reports of multiple shots fired at the shootings, which are ongoing.
3.59pm: 300 people were reported to be inside the moque.
4.00pm: One person is confirmed to be in custody but there are warnings there may be others out there.
Police commissioner Mike Bush urges Muslims across New Zealand to stay away from their local mosque.
4.10pm: Jacinda Ardern calls Friday ‘one of New Zealand’s darkest days’.
5.27pm: First reports of a second shooting.
A witness said a Muslim local chased the shooters at the mosque in Linwood, firing in ‘self defence’.
5.31pm: Four people are confirmed to be in custody. including one woman.
Multiple fatalities were reported.
7.07pm: It was confirmed an AR15 rifle was used in the attack.
7.20pm: Dunedin Street was cordoned off.
Reports the attackers planned to also target the Al Huda Mosque.
7.26pm: At least 40 people were confirmed dead, Jacinda Ardern confirmed.
7.34pm: Confirmed that 48 people were being treated in hospital.
7.46pm: Britomart train station in central Auckland was evacuated after bags were found unattended.
The bags were deemed not suspicious.
8.35pm: New Zealand’s Government confirmed this is the first time ever the terror level has been lifted from low to high.
9.03pm: Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirms that the death toll has risen to 49.
He also confirmed that a man in his late twenties was charged with murder.
Scott Williams, Bruce Rifle Club vice-president, told the Otago Daily Times Tarrant is a club member and practised shooting at the range.
Mr Williams said he could remember Tarrant shooting an AR-15 – used in a number of US massacres – as well as a hunting rifle.
A person with a standard firearms licence can buy an AR-15 in New Zealand but have limits on how they can be adapted.
Masjid Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue was one of the scenes of the mass shooting. At least one gunman opened fire at around 1:40 pm local time after walking into the Masjid Al Noor Mosque, killing at least 49 people
A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone near a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand. He is pictured after multiple people were killed in mass shootings at Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Masjid when they were full of people attending Friday prayers
Worried people wait outside one of the mosques Christchurch. At least 49 people were killed in the mass shootings on Friday
Police escort witnesses away from a mosque in central Christchurch, yesterday. Police warned people who live nearby to stay indoors
HOW THE AR-15 IS THE WEAPON OF CHOICE FOR MASS SHOOTERS
Aurora, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, Waffle House.
All have witnessed gun violence carried out by a killer brandishing an AR-15 or AR-15-style assault weapon, America’s weapon of choice for mass shootings.
Dubbed ‘America’s Most Popular Rifle’ by the NRA, it is estimated that there are eight million of the powerful – and affordable – weapons across the nation. It is accurate, relatively lightweight and has low recoil.
Gun experts claim the reason mass shooters gravitate towards AR-15s is mainly due to a ‘copy cat’ mentality as opposed to more precise gun knowledge.
June 20, 2012: James Holmes, 24, uses an AR-15-style .223-caliber Smith and Wesson rifle with 100-round magazine, among other firearms to kill 12 and injure 58 while dressed as The Joker from Batman at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
December 14, 2012: Adam Lanza, 20, shoots dead 20 children between the age of six and seven, as well as six members of staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Prior to driving to the school he shot and killed his mother at their Newtown home. Amongst his arsenal was a Bushmaster AR-15, where he fired off more than 150 rounds in less than five minutes.
December 2, 2015: Syed Rizwyan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, use two AR-15-style .223-caliber Remington rifles and two 9mm handguns to kill 14 and injure 21 as his workplace in San Bernardino, California, before being killed by police.
June 12, 2016: Omar Mateen, 29, bursts into the Orlando Pulse nightclub, using an AR-15-style rifle – a Sig Sauer MCX – as well as a 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol to kill 49 and injure 50.
October 1, 2017: Stephen Paddock, 64, uses a wide arsenal of guns, including an AR-15 to kill 58 and injure hundreds more at a music festival in Las Vegas. He doesn’t even have to leave his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay hotel which overlooks the festival to carry out the worst mass shooting in US history. He commits suicide in the room.
November 5, 2017: Devin Kelley, 26 uses an AR-15 style Ruger rifle to kill 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, before being killed.
February 14, 2018: Nikolas Cruz, 19, uses an AR-15-style rifle to kill at least 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz is captured and is currently awaiting trial.
April 22, 2018: Travis Reinking, 29, armed with an AR-15-style rifle opens fire on a Waffle House in Tennessee, killing four people and injuring two more. He is prevented from killing more by James Shaw Jr, who hid near the restaurant’s bathrooms and rushed the shooter, wrestling the rifle away. The gunman is captured 24 hours later.
Mr Williams said Tarrant had never mentioned anything about his feelings towards Muslims and seemed ‘as normal as anyone else’.
‘I think we’re feeling bit stunned and shocked and a bit betrayed, perhaps, that we’ve had this person in our club who has ended up doing these horrible things,’ Mr Williams said.
Tarrant joined the rifle club at the start of 2018 and was said to help out around the range.
‘He was always there helping out with any work that was needed around the club, or when it came to set up or pack down the range.’
The club, which has just over 100 members, is in a state of shock, Mr Williams added.
Shocked family members stand outside the mosque following a shooting resulting in multiple fatalies and injuries at the Masjid Al Noor on Deans Avenue in Christchurch
Armed Offenders Squad push back members of the public following the shooting which saw multiple fatalies and injuries at the Masjid Al Noor on Deans Avenue in Christchurch, New Zealand
Bloodied bandages on the road following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch yesterday
A spokesman for the club told Stuff: ‘We are assisting [police] with their investigation.’
‘He seemed a reasonably normal sort of dude.’
It was also revealed that a man by the name of Brenton Tarrant had bought a hunting rifle from a sports store in Dunedin in 2017.
But Darren Jacobs, chief executive officer of Hunting & Fishing NZ stores, said store workers did not recognise Tarrant from court pictures.
Yet he had a firearms licence and a record of a sale to a man of that name was found.
Mr Jacobs told Otago Daily Times: ‘We have recorded a single sale to an individual going by that name in 2017, and that sale was for a bolt-action hunting rifle.’
Police console a man on a grass verge outside a mosque in central Christchurch after the shootings
But he added there was no evidence Tarrant bought a semi-automatic rifle from the store – which do not sell them as a rule.
New Zealand has around one firearm for every four people and does not ban semi-automatic weapons.
The country’s gun laws have remained largely unchanged since 1992, when the 1983 law was toughened in response to another massacre which saw 13 people die.
A counter-terrorism expert said a military-style assault rifle allegedly used in Friday’s Christchurch massacre has never been seen before in Australia and New Zealand.
Deakin University counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton identified one of the weapons as a AR-15, the same assault rifle used in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people.
‘We haven’t seen these assault weapons used in Australia and New Zealand,’ Mr Barton told ABC News.
‘I think now we’ve got to face the fact that they’re at large.’
New Zealand’s worst mass shooting has put the country’s current regulations of owning a semi-automatic military-style weapon under scrutiny.
Mr Barton questioned how Tarrant allegedly obtained the powerful weapons.
‘You would have thought getting an assault rifle was very hard, not like it is in America where it’s very easy,’ he said.
A former armed offenders squad member said some of the semi-automatic weapons Tarrant allegedly used were very similar to what police and the military use.
‘Those weapons he had you can purchase with a normal firearms licence,’ he told Stuff.
‘It’s not the first time he’s ever fired those types of weapons. He’s fired them before.’
In the wake of yesterday’s attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there would be immediate changes to firearms laws.
She said: ‘I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change.’
Ms Ardern said in a press conference the white supremacist attacker had used five firearms in the attack, including two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever action firearm.
She said she had been advised the gunman obtained a Category A licence in November 2017, and ‘under that, he was able to acquire the guns that he held’.
‘While work has been done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change,’ Ms Ardern told media.
She went on to say she had instructed government bodies to ‘report to Cabinet on Monday on these events with a view to strengthening our systems on a range of fronts including, but not limited to, firearms, border controls, enhanced information-sharing with Australia, and any practice reinforcement of our watch list processes’.
‘Now is the time for change,’ she added.
Ms Ardern said she would like to see semi-automatic weapons banned and was one of the issues she was looking ‘at with immediate effect.’
JACINDA ARDEN’S SPEECH
We believe that 40 people have lost their lives in this act of extreme violence. Ten have died at Linwood Avenue mosque. Three of which were outside the mosque itself. A further 30 have been killed at Deans Avenue mosque. There are also more than 20 seriously injured who are currently in Christchurch A&E.
It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack. From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned. Two explosive devices attached to suspect vehicles have now been found and they have been disarmed. There are currently four individuals that have been apprehended, three are connected to this attack who are currently in custody. One of which has publicly stated that they were Australian-born.
These are people who I would describe as having extremist views, that have absolutely no place in New Zealand, and in fact have no place in the world. While we do not have any reason to believe at this stage that there are any other suspect, we are not assuming that at this stage.
The joint intelligence group has been deployed and police are putting all of their resources into the situation. The Defence Force are currently transporting additional police staff to the region. The national security threat level has been lifted from low to high.
I want to ensure people that all of our agencies are responding in the most appropriate way. That includes at our borders. Air New Zealand has cancelled all turboprop flights out of Christchurch tonight and will review the situation in the morning.
Jet services domestically andinternationally are continuing to operate. I say again, there is heightened security. That is of course, we can assure people of their safety, and police are working hard to ensure that people are able to move around the city safely. I have spoken this evening to the mayor of Christchurch, and I intend to speak this evening to the imam, … but I would like to speak directly to the people impacted.
Christchurch was the home of these victims. For many, this may not have been the place they were born. In fact, for many, New Zealand was their choice. The place they actively came to and committed themselves to. The place they were raising their families, with communities who loved them and who they loved. The place where they came for safety. Where they were free to practise their culture and their religion.
For those of you who are watching at home tonight, in questioning how this could have happened here, we, New Zealand, we were not a target because we are safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are in enclave for extremism, we were chosen for the fact that we are none of these things.
It was we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values and a refuge for those who need it. And those values I can assure you will not and cannot be shaken by this attack. We are proud nation of more than 160 languages and amongst that diversity we share common values, and the one that we place the currency on right now and tonight is our compassion, and the support of the community of those directly affected by this tragedy. And secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this.
You may have chosen us, but we are utterly reject and condemn you.