New Zealand eyes gun reforms in the wake of massacre

The day after a massacre in two mosques left dozens dead and dozens more injured, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern understandably turned her attention to gun laws.

Ardern said at a news conference that she was advised that the gunman had five firearms – two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns and a lever-action firearm – and that he had acquired a gun license in November 2017.

“While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now: Our gun laws will change,” Ardern said.

She noted that there have been attempts to change the nation’s gun laws in the past, most recently in 2017, but said “now is the time for change.” She suggested she was looking at the issues around ownership of semi-automatic weapons.

The New York Times reported this morning that the prime minister and her cabinet had agreed “in principle” to an overhaul of the country’s gun laws, though there are some details to iron out.

“Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms that I believe will have made our community safer,” Ardern said.

The “within 10 days” phrase stood out for me: in the wake of a brutal crime, officials are wasting no time exploring new ways to keep their citizens safe from gun violence. The authorities in New Zealand, where there is nothing comparable to the Second Amendment that exists in the United States, are acting as if new gun laws are simply a common-sense reaction to a tragic mass shooting.

“New Zealand has to have this debate,” said Alexander Gillespie, a law professor at the University of Waikato, told the Times. “This is a place where your car has to be registered, your dog has to be registered. But your gun doesn’t.”

It all sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

On the other side of the planet, the Donald Trump of South America has a very different kind of debate in mind. The Wall Street Journal reported the other day:

[A]s Brazil reels from one of its worst-ever school shootings, the response from President Jair Bolsonaro’s right-wing administration and his supporters this week has been the opposite: What Brazil needs, they say, is more guns.

In a Columbine-style massacre near São Paulo on Wednesday, two young men killed eight people, mostly students at their former school, shocking a nation already accustomed to endemic and barbaric violence.

“The logic of the left is always the same: If a crazy guy uses guns to kill people, the solution is to take guns away from people who have nothing to do with what happened,” said Rogério Mendonça, deputy leader of the governing bloc in the lower house of Congress. “Now imagine if a decent person had been armed at that school. They could have stopped the attack from ending in the bloody way it did.”

Sen. Sérgio Olímpio Gomes, another close ally of the president and one of many former police officers to join the new administration’s ranks, has advocated arming teachers in response to the tragedy.

Oddly enough, this sounds familiar, too.

Postscript: To learn more about existing gun laws in New Zealand and Brazil, the New York Times put together a helpful summary.

Brazil and New Zealand

New Zealand eyes gun reforms in the wake of massacre