A New Zeal For Gun Control

Isabella Molloy, Editor

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On March 15 2019, in Christchurch, New Zealand 50 people were killed and dozens were wounded in a terrorist attack on two mosques. In response to the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s history, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that New Zealand’s gun laws will change.

28-year-old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, was charged for murder. Tarrant live streamed the Muslim attacks revealing the graphic footage and posted his 74-page manifesto on his Facebook account prior to the attacks containing admittance to have been planning the attack for two years and an expressed admiration for other white nationalists.

In less than a week after the attacks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a national ban on all military-style semi automatic weapons, which are typically the guns of choice for mass killers. Instead of New Zealand’s leaders tweeting their “thoughts and prayers”, they responded to the actions and learned from experience. New Zealand is now concerned with tightening gun ownership laws and is investigating to see whether there was anything the country’s itelligence services could have done to prevent the shootings. The attacks on two mosques have made it clear to Ardern that there are some weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws. Apparently the United States, according to NBC News, being the scene of “62 mass shootings in 2019 alone”, is not enough to convince the congress and President that there needs to be some sort of immediate change.

Compared to the United States, New Zealand already has fairly strict gun control laws. Unlike most countries, all gun-owners must have a license, but most weapons aren’t required to be registered. Once a license has been acquired, countless weapons can be purchased. A noticeable flaw in gun laws in New Zealand is that most gun purchases are not tracked. According to the New York Times, to legally obtain a gun in New Zealand, people must pass a background check that takes in account criminal, medical, mental health and domestic violence records, give character references, be open to government interviews, pass a home security inspection, take a gun safety course, and then lastly wait weeks or even months for firearms licence approval. Taking action, Ardern has said options for tightening gun laws include a ban on private ownership of semi-automatic rifles that were used in Christchurch and a government-funded buyback of newly outlawed guns.

The quick decision by the New Zealand government has received positive responses around the world, with some comparing it to the lack of similar action from the United States. The New York Times states that in the United States, approximately “22 percent of guns are still acquired without a background check.” The fact that the New Zealand government has acted so quickly stirs anger in those of the U.S. who worry that a more meticulous background check is needed to adopt a house pet than to acquire a semi automatic AR-15 weapon.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been selfless in thinking about effective steps in making New Zealand a safer country, leaders of the United States either sit behind their screens and tweet about their sorrow or declare a national emergency to fund a wall along the southwestern border. Despite the massive number of those killed from gun violence, action has still not been taken to protect people because our leaders are more concerned with illegal immigrants than thousands of people dying each month from weak gun control. Action needs to be taken in the U.S. Gun laws need to be modified and it should be made more difficult to acquire a gun now since more Americans have died from guns since 1970 than died in all the wars in American history. There is no reason that gun control should be avoided any longer. If New Zealand has promised to make immediate change after the attacks on the mosques, the U.S. must, also, make immediate change .