‘Our Gun Laws Will Change’ Vows New Zealand Prime Minister After Mass Shooting
New Zealand’s Prime Minister vowed to look into amending the country’s gun laws following the mass shooting in Christchurch.
On Friday, a mass shooting took place at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where dozens of members were holding a Friday prayer, killing at least 50 people and leaving dozens hospitalized.
Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was detained and charged with murder on Saturday.
Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face further charges.
In his 74-page online manifesto, Tarrant described himself as “an ordinary white man.” Tarrant claimed he represented Europe’s ultra-nationalists who are against the arrival of immigrants, whom he called “invaders.”
A Devastating Shooting in Quiet Christchurch
The massacre in Christchurch came as especially shocking given its occurrence in New Zealand which is ranked the world’s second most tranquil nation behind Iceland, as data from 2018 Global Peace index shows. New Zealand has boasted itself as one of the five safest countries in the world after Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Singapore. The most recent mass shooting in New Zealand took place in 1997.
The Christchurch incident marked the highest number of fatalities ever recorded from a terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her administration was planning to amend the law on firearms following the Christchurch tragedy.
“I can tell you one thing right now, our gun laws will change,” Ardern told reporters on Saturday, saying a ban on semi-automatic weapons would be considered.
Ardern said Tarrant was a licensed gun owner who allegedly used five weapons, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, which had been modified.
New Zealand’s Gun Control: An Overview
The Christchurch incident was the first mass shooting in New Zealand since 1997 when Stephen Anderson, who was later found not guilty by insanity, went on a rampage shooting his family and friends and ultimately killing six.
New Zealanders do not have a constitutional right to guns like Americans, but a strong gun lobby has prevented gun legislation in the past.
Gun owners in New Zealand must obtain a license, but they do not have to register and report types of guns they possess, making it difficult for the police to estimate the exact numbers of firearms.
The minimum age to own a gun in New Zealand is 16, or 18 for “military style” guns like semi-automatic weapons. Applicants are subject to a background check where domestic violence, mental health and drug addiction are looked into. There is no restriction on the number of guns that can be owned.
The New Zealand police estimate civilians own around 1.2 million firearms, meaning that one in three citizens has a firearm but they believe most of the gun owners are in rural areas.
However, the number of gun-related deaths in New Zealand is relatively low. According to CNN, in the decade prior to 2015 the number of gun related homicides per year reached up to the dozens which equated to about one death per 100,000 people. In comparison, the U.S. had 12 deaths per 100,000 in 2017.
Philip Alpers, the founder of GunPolicy.org told CNN that New Zealand’s gun legislation has remained largely unchanged since 1992. Five years later, a High Court judge recommended major changes including registering guns but the changes were never implemented.
The gun lobby is “small but very strong,” in New Zealand, according to Alpers’ interview with CNN.
“They are very vocal and have managed to foil every attempt to tighten the gun laws since 1992. It’s a powerful little lobby group, whereas the gun lobby in Australia had its back broken by the Port Arthur massacre.
However, Alpers added, “It already has shaken the country to the core. I can’t imagine a country less likely just to offer ‘thoughts and prayers’ and then just move on.”