Dec. 21 (UPI) -- New Zealand's new ban on semi-automatic weapons went into effect Saturday after the government recovered more than 50,000 guns as part of a buyback program.
The country's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced a temporary ban military-style semi-automatic weapons in March, less than a week after a man opened fire at two Mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 people. Parliament overwhelmingly passed legislation making the ban permanent in April.
The Arms Amendment Act includes a ban on semi-automatic weapons and military-style semi-automatics, a ban on parts, magazines and ammunition that could be used for modification into a semi-automatic.
After the passage, New Zealand began an amnesty period and a six-month buyback program to get the newly banned weapons out of people's homes. People who violate the law face five years in prison.
Minister of Police Stuart Nash said it's unclear how many of the illegal weapons have yet to be collected. Police estimates indicate there are about 1.2 million firearms in New Zealand.
The government spent about $66 million in the buyback program, which also collected about 188,000 banned parts.
Critics of the new law said some gun owners have hidden their weapons rather than turn them in. The Council of Licensed Firearms Owner estimated people had kept about two-thirds of the banned weapons.
"Despite our best efforts to encourage compliance, we know owners have been so disappointed by the settings of the ban and its poor implementation that many can't bring themselves to comply," spokeswoman Nicole McKee said.
Gun owners "never overcame being blamed by authorities for being somehow responsible for a heinous act of terrorism -- something they would never do."