Less than a week after a white nationalist gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 people, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country had banned military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles and has set up a buyback program. Both the coalition government and the centre-right opposition party supported the move.
"I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride," Ardern said on Thursday. "What we're banning today are the things that were used in last Friday’s attack."
Ardern said she expects the law to go into effect on April 11. "Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too," she said.
New Zealand and the U.S. are among the only countries in the world that don't have universal gun registration rules. Both also have powerful gun lobbies.
But while New Zealand swiftly responded to its tragedy, the U.S. is doing precious little despite already experiencing 62 mass shootings in 2019. As New Zealand gun owners are voluntarily giving up their firearms — can you imagine this happening stateside? — state legislatures in the U.S. are arguing over the most common-sense laws, like those keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and away from college campuses, churches, and bars. And, there has been no meaningful federal gun legislation in recent history, despite horrifying massacres such as Parkland and Sandy Hook: As you might remember, the federal assault weapons ban expired back in 2004.
Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks w/ #HR8.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 21, 2019
Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market.
This is what leadership looks like ⬇️ https://t.co/TcdR63anBt
The problem is a combination of the misinterpretation of the second amendment and the outsized power of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
"Our form of government, with a Senate that gives extraordinary power to rural states over urban states and is deferential to states' rights, makes it difficult to advance relatively modest gun-control measures, much less more sweeping measures," Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told the Washington Post. "The gun lobby has been very influential in convincing people the [second amendment prohibits any] form of gun control, which affects the politics over even modest measures."
Gun reform advocates praised Ardern's leadership. "It is heartening to see Jacinda Ardern's incredible leadership and how quickly her administration is acting in the wake of this horrific mass shooting," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, the grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, told Refinery29 earlier this week. "We've had at least 200 mass shootings in America since 2009...and yet our leaders have done very little."