Following the Christchurch terror attacks, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has earned the respect and support of the global community with the way she dealt with the tragedy. She recognised the attacks as acts of terrorism – a first given the victims were Muslims and the attacker was a White man – and vowed to mobilise the legislature regarding gun laws in the country.
A week later, Ardern has delivered on her promise as her government has imposed an immediate ban on all assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. The country has followed in the footsteps of Australia and the UK, both of which introduced strict gun-control laws and a ban on civilian ownership of semi-automatic weapons following the Port Arthur massacre of 1996 and the Hungerford massacre of 1988, respectively.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of gun possession, with approximately 1.6 million owners of firearms in a total population of less than five million. Weapons can only be used to hunt game, for protection against wildlife, or as part of cultural traditions, and not self-defence.
Despite the high dependency on semi-automatic weapons for hunting, the country was united in seeking reforms in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. The ban has drawn the attention of many who have been lobbying for stricter gun laws in the US, which has experienced 152 mass shootings from 1967 to 2018.
Despite the numbers, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has successfully lobbied against gun-control laws. In response to the New Zealand’s ban, Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted “this is what real action to stop gun violence looks like. We must follow New Zealand’s lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States.”
While it seems unlikely that the NRA will relinquish its stronghold, and the US will follow in the footsteps of the Kiwis, even the NRA cannot deny the need for similar laws.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2019.
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