Six days after the devastating terror attack that killed fifty people in two Christchurch mosques, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an immediate ban on all military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) weapons. This includes assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, as well as parts that are able to convert any semi-automatic into military style assault guns. While many see bearing arms as a right, the majority of New Zealander’s and critics worldwide have praised Arden’s immediate and humane action in response to the terror attack.
The new laws disallow anyone to buy any MSSA weapons without police approval. According to New Zealand Radio Network RNZ, Ardern commented that “there was no point in applying for one.” Ardern continued to explain that the government would be establishing a buyback scheme to begin the process of taking weapons out of circulation, whilst many New Zealander’s are already surrendering such weapons. After a reasonable period for returns, those who continue to possess such weapons will be liable to a $4000 fine or up to three years’ imprisonment.
New Zealand’s swift change in gun laws has drawn attention to the United States ongoing gun debate. Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders praised New Zealand’s swift action and called for the United States to follow suit, tweeting “This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like.” New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also tweeted, “Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks…Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market.” Meanwhile, National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswomen Dana Loesch tweeted “The US isn’t NZ. While they do not have an inalienable right to bear arms and to self-defence we do.”
While it is heartbreaking that 50 lives had to be senselessly taken for the New Zealand government to change the country’s gun laws, it is hoped that the new laws will protect citizens and help prevent such violence and mass terror from ever occurring again in the country. Ardern and her government’s immediate action should be praised for providing a masterclass example of a government putting human lives above the right to bear weapons.
New Zealand has received worldwide praise in regards to the country’s response of compassion, support and unity towards the directly impacted Muslim and migrant community. It is hoped that such support will continue and create a long-lasting impact to erode racism and white supremacy within the country. Over 70,000 New Zealander’s signed a petition to ban all semi-automatic weapons, helping to result in the successful law change. Ardern is showing the world what real leadership looks like, and that such acts of violence and terror do not have to create greater bitterness and rifts between cultures and people – but can instead unite us all.