The Slatest

New Zealand Leaders Vow to Change Nation’s Gun Laws After Mass Shooting

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (C) speaks with a representative of the refugee centre during a visit to the Canterbury Refugee Centre in Christchurch on March 16, 2019.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (C) speaks with a representative of the refugee centre during a visit to the Canterbury Refugee Centre in Christchurch on March 16, 2019.
MARTY MELVILLE/Getty Images

Shortly after 49 people were killed in a terrorist attack at two mosques, New Zealand leaders didn’t take a page from their U.S counterparts. Rather than simply offer thoughts and prayers to the victims, they made it clear that the country would act to change the nation’s gun laws in an effort to make it more difficult for an attack of this nature to take place again. “While the nation grapples with a form of grief and anger that we have not experienced before, we are seeking answers,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference in Wellington on Saturday morning. “I can tell you one thing right now, our guns laws will change.”

New Zealand’s attorney general, David Baker, seemed to take that one step further saying at a vigil in Auckland that semiautomatic weapons would be banned. He later backtracked though, making clear no decision has been made. Praker said he was trying to reflect what the prime minister said that “we need to ban some semi-automatics, perhaps all of them. Those decisions have yet to be taken but the prime minister has signaled that we are going to look at that issue.” But Ardern had said that a possible ban was “one of the issues” the government would consider when it will start to seriously discuss possible measures on Monday.

New Zealand’s Police Association has expressed support for the call to amend the country’s gun laws, saying it is far too easy to access military grade semiautomatic weapons legally. “We know how easy it is to get firearms in New Zealand, and while today and the next few days is the time to look after the welfare of the victims and their families, clearly we need to have a look at firearms law in New Zealand,” Chris Cahill, the police association president, said. The alleged gunman was found to have used five guns that he legally purchased, including two semiautomatic weapons and two shotguns. As Slate’s Molly Olmstead noted, it’s difficult to rate New Zealand’s gun tolerance because “some of its regulations are strict and some are lax.”