Christchurch massacre: New Zealand gun owners support firearms control

Wellington: In the aftermath of the Christchurch mosques massacre last month, New Zealand has come down heavily on firearms ownership. Immediately after the attack, the government led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an immediate ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles and and will put laws to parliament formalising its action by tomorrow. Kiwi gun lobby has come out in support of move. Gun owners in the country agree that action is needed.

Media reports said that gun owners want to support the government in any changes to prevent a terrorist attack from happening in New Zealand again.

Although finalising such legislation can often take months, Ardern said that since this matter is so urgent it will be done by 11 April. Restrictions such as including a gun register, tighter vetting and stricter gun storage rules are set to be passed by the end of the year.

In a move that would be unthinkable in the United States, one of New Zealand’s largest gun retailers, Hunting & Fishing, voluntarily stopped selling MSSAs and halted online firearms sales.

The country has its own National Rifle Association. The New Zealand NRA is also considering changing its name to avoid any association with the American body, said reports.

Media reports suggest that New Zealand and the United States share many historical similarities, but they have a fundamentally different attitude towards firearms. According to statistics, in 2016, New Zealand, with a population of about 4.7 million, had nine firearms-related homicides. In the United States, population approximately 327 million, there were 14,415, more than two hundred times the per capita rate as New Zealand. There are approximately 393 million guns in private hands in the United States, or 1.2 for every person, whereas New Zealand has about 1.5 million, or 0.3 per person. While there are 13,500 MSSAs in New Zealand, it is 15 million in the US.

The difference in gun cultures in both the countries has played out on social media since the Christchurch shooting. When a right-wing US website tweeted that “armed government thugs” were carrying out door-to-door gun confiscations in New Zealand, dozens of Kiwis left mocking replies.

The attacker, identified by authorities as Australia-born Brenton Tarrant, 28, targeted immigrants during Friday prayers. Witnesses said victims were shot at close range. He was arrested shortly after entering two mosques –Masjid Al Noor and Linwood – with high-powered weapons and shooting dead 50 people, including five Indians. The New South Wales (NSW) Joint Counter Terrorism Team on Monday two properties on the state’s mid-north coast.

NT Bureau