The mass shooting at Christchurch mosque in New Zealand earlier this month led to quick, drastic changes in New Zealand’s gun control. Within 24 hours of the shooting, which killed 50 people and injured at least 50 others, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised that the country’s gun laws would change. Less than a week later, Ardern announced a countrywide reform that will strengthen gun control throughout the country by mid- April.
Before this change, though, New Zealand gun laws were already stronger than the existing U.S. gun restrictions. New Zealand required a license to buy and own guns, a law which only applies in a few U.S. states. With the new regulations, New Zealand is banning all semiautomatic rifles and establishing a buy-back program to retrieve any of the soon-to-be illegal weapons in the country.
New Zealand’s government is receiving global praise for its swift action. This quick decision making and follow-through stand out, especially for U.S. citizens, to whom such a thing as swift governmental decision making is almost unheard of. It helps that New Zealand’s policy making is decided upon by a parliament. Outside roadblocks and persuaders such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) are absent, unlike in the U.S.
The quick response and motion to change in New Zealand has left Americans with an incredible example of what can be done to improve the safety of our nation, outside of sending “thoughts and prayers,” a sentiment typically issued by governmental officials instead of legitimate action.
On top of acknowledgements and reform on a bureaucratic level, media coverage and public response to the attacks was also handled in an effective and demonstrative way. Women wore head scarves as a sign of solidarity with the Muslim women who lost their lives. Ardern herself wore a black headscarf the day after the shooting, a sign of mourning and solidarity, while sitting with the victims’ families.
Ardern demonstrates a leadership of both humanity and rationality. In a time of mourning from senseless, preventable violence, she responded with a sense of empathy as well as action. Ardern wasted no time speaking empty promises or generalized words of sympathy. Instead, she unified the typically peaceful country, saying “You may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you,” during her first address after the attack.
New Zealand’s response, both socially and bureaucratically, gave Americans an example of an appropriate, effective response to the senseless violence with which our society has become too familiar. Since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, there have been close to 2,000 mass shootings in the U.S., with at least 2,279 people dead and 8,272 others injured. According to a 2018 report by Small Arms Survey, American civilians own an estimated 393 million of the 857 million firearms owned worldwide. It’s impossible to get an accurate number of firearms owned by private citizens in the U.S. due to a federal law which prohibits a national registry, a law which was fought for by the NRA. This lack of definite information makes it difficult for law enforcement to track down specific firearms used in crimes and also leaves room for uncertainty in knowing who owns what kind of weapon.
In the U.S., our relationship with mass shootings and gun violence is one that is all too familiar. By now, after years of news alerts, candlelight vigils and social media hashtags, one would think something would have changed. Unfortunately, we are still facing the same consequences of our flawed legislature. It took one act of hatred in New Zealand to enact national reform. Our government should look to this response and follow through if we ever want an end to this sort of senseless violence.
The Carrier’s editorial opinion represents the views of the senior members of the Campus Carrier and Viking Fusion news staff.