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‘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 

Countries That Have Had Mass Shootings Amended Their Gun Control Laws Mass shootings can happen anytime, anywhere. It is true a stricter gun regulation does not automatically stop all shootings, but at least it can minimize the number of gun-related homicides. According to a review in 2016 published in Epidemiologic Reviews, new legal restrictions on gun ownership led to a decline in gun-related violence. The research involved 130 cases in 10 countries. Here are some of the countries that have restricted gun ownership as a response to fatal shootings.     Australia: New Zealand’s closest neighbor can offer a valuable lesson in dealing with mass shootings. A tragedy in 1996 that killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, led Canberra, the Australian capital, to pass a stricter gun law called the National Fire Arms Agreement. The law bans the ownership of automatic and semi-automatic shotguns and rifles. Also, the act offers compensation for those who surrender their prohibited guns under a buyback clause, leading to the destruction of 700,000 weapons. The data showed that gun-related deaths dropped significantly 20 years after the implementation of the law. Studies in 2013 showed there was a  59 percent drop in gun-related death, a 65 percent decline in gun-related suicide around 10 years after the new gun control.     Germany: Berlin, Germany’s capital, prohibited automated and semi-automated fire guns in 2008 as a response to the school shooting in Erfurt that killed 17 in 2002. However, the use of weapons for sport-shooting and hunting is allowed under stricter permits.     Switzerland: One of the safest countries changed the gun law in 2008 after a man killed 14 and injured 14 in 2001 in a local parliament before he shot himself. Since then, Switzerland has never experienced such a similar event, despite a high gun ownership rate. The country has 2 million privately owned guns. Why is the gun-related crime rate in Switzerland relatively low? There are some reasons such as mandatory military service for men, making them understand more about how to use and control guns accurately. During military service, they receive pistols or rifles they can purchase after they finish their duty, but they must obtain a license for those weapons. Before granting a permit to buy guns, the police in the local region, known as the canton, will discuss with psychiatrists or authorities in other cantons where prospective buyers live, aimed at obtaining information on their background and psychological conditions. Gun Control Lesson Learned from Japan Japan is one of the countries with the lowest rate of gun ownership and strict laws on ownership, 0.6 guns per 100 citizens in 2017, data from the Small Arms Survey showed. If people want to buy firearms in Japan, they must be patient enough to pass through all steps and stages. They must take a day-long course on firearms, pass a written and shooting test with the passing rate minimum of 95 percent. Prospective gun buyers must also pass health and mental health tests. The police will also check the prospective buyer’s background, families, friends, colleagues  to make sure they are not linked with extremist groups. Japan’s gun law also bans pistols and only allows shotguns and air rifles. Gun owners can only buy new bullets by returning the remaining bullets purchased during their last visit. Gun owners must inform the police where they put their firearms and bullets. Both firearms and bullets must be locked separately and with different keys. The police will check those weapons once a year. Gun ownership in Japan is only valid for three years. After three years gun owners must take a course and pass a series of tests again. With all these long procedures no wonder that Japan sees its almost zero rate of gun-related crime.

Flowers and signs are pictured at a memorial as a tribute to victims of the mosque attacks, near a police line outside Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

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

Members of the media wait at a gate as police and military personnel work at the carpark compound of the district court after Friday's mosque attacks, in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Members of the media wait at a gate as police and military personnel work at the carpark compound of the district court after Friday’s mosque attacks, in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

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.

Alpers, who is based at the University of Sydney but originally from New Zealand, told CNN, “Not one of these measures has been addressed by legislation. Government has since considered a range of similar recommendations, but special interest groups prevent meaningful change.”

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.

“In New Zealand the gun lobby has gone from strength to strength and has dominated policy advice to the police and government.”

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.”

 


Reuters contributed to this report.

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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1 Comment

  1. Kurt March 16, 2019

    Once again, I belive this is the work of MI-5, or the CIA. The New Zealand government is in on it. The UK is being completely dissarmed.
    If you will note. The blame for programmed shooters murdering a group of people is placed squarely on the weapon.
    This is insanity! For the media to make it sound like everyone who owns a semi auto weapon is a mass murderer waiting to happen. When if we had responsible government’s they would be promising us that they would find out who or what is behind these unnatural acts of violence.
    Both semiautomatic and fully automatic weapons have been around for over 100 years. In the USA before 1934 anyone with the money could buy a Thompson sub gun.
    Yet the only mass murder at that time was the Valentin’s day massacre. That was mob on mob violence. But that was it.
    Now days we have more and more restrictions on firearms, and many many more mass shootings. “With every shooting we have antigunners proposing new and stricter gun laws,” if not out and out bans.
    If you look at under the light of cause and effect. It’s very hard for me not to think that the very same group of people who scream the loudest against gun ownership, are the very same group that’s behing these mass shootings.
    On this entire planet we have not one politician saying we need to find and prosecute the group of evil manipulative
    People who are behind all these mass shootings. There has been way too many of these mass shootings for them to be occurring naturally.

    Reply

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