By Lauren Rearick
Mere days after a terrorist attacked a pair of New Zealand mosques and killed at least 50 people, the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced that changes will be made to their gun control laws.
Speaking during a press conference on Monday, March 18, Ardern addressed the events that had unfolded on Friday. According to The New York Times, the Prime Minister pledged that “there will be changes to our gun laws.” In additional reporting from NPR, the Prime Minister went on to confirm that when it comes to proposed changes, “there are simply details to work through.”
Ardern’s promise comes as the country continues to recover from an act of terrorism by a self-identified white nationalist, The New York Times reports. The attack was carried out in two separate mosques located in the city of Christchurch. At least 50 people were killed in the attack, and 50 more were wounded.
During the press conference, Ardern shared that changes to New Zealand law would likely be coming this week, and would impact semi-automatic weapons, NPR reports. “I think what the public rightly are asking is why is it, and how is it, that you [are] currently able to buy semi-automatic military style weapons in New Zealand," she said. "And that's the right question to ask."
Her comments come after New Zealand Attorney General David Parker told a vigil on Friday, March 15, that the country would ban semi-automatic guns; according to Radio NZ, he later backtracked. “Those decisions have yet to be taken but the prime minister has signalled that we are going to look at that issue,” he said.
As reported by The New York Times, current gun purchasing laws in New Zealand require someone to pass a background check, which considers criminal, medical, domestic violence, and mental health history. From there, applicants are required to provide character references and complete and attend a gun safety course, and authorities interview a partner or next of kin and examined the applicant’s for proper gun storage methods. After completing these steps, the country will provide a license to carry and purchase a firearm, but The New York Times reports that it can take “weeks or months” for the approval process to be completed.
Current New Zealand gun control laws are much more comprehensive than laws in the United States, where the only requirement is the completion of an instant background check, The New York Times reports. Some states including California and New York have enacted additional purchasing measures, including prohibiting the sale of guns to those with domestic violence convictions. Nationally, there are 68 proposed laws and resolutions awaiting some sort of action in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
When news broke that New Zealand would take meaningful action towards further gun control, many people on social media contrasted that approach to the “thoughts and prayers” some American politicians often rely on to convey their seriousness about gun violence in lieu of policy, the Washington Post notes.
This latest attack marks a continued increase in the number of violent attacks being carried out by white nationalists, NBC News reports. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security previously reported that attacks by white nationalists have risen to a 16-year high in the United States, but President Donald Trump seems unconcerned.
In a Friday press conference held hours after the attack occurred in New Zealand, Trump denied there was an emerging threat from these hate groups, saying, “I don't really, I think it’s a small group of people.” In February, the Southern Poverty Law Center, previously confirmed that the number of hate groups in the United States has continued to increase, rising to 1,020 in 2018.