New Zealand is an idyllic country in the South Pacific, rated as the second safest country in the world, behind Iceland. It is where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed, a portrayal of mythical Middle Earth, peaceful and serene until invaded by a darkness.
In the movies, the dark force was a fallen wizard named Sauron. In reality, a few weeks ago evil visited NZ in the form of an Australian immigrant who went on a shooting spree in a Christchurch mosque, leaving 50 dead.
For a small country of 4.8 million, 50 dead is the equivalent of 3,400 casualties in the U.S., a country of 327 million, more than perished during 9/11. This was a rude awakening for this island nation Down Under.
How will they react? In America after 9/11 we saw the Patriot Act as the government tried to do something, anything, in response to this tragic event. We saw increased air travel security since an airplane was the weapon of choice for 9/11. In NZ it was a firearm, so the response will be different.
Is it shortsighted to focus on the method of evil rather than the root cause? The NZ shooter could have flown a plane into the mosque. Or used a knife, or a bomb. America responded to 9/11 by creating the TSA, yet that didn’t stop subsequent mass casualty events using bombs at the Boston Marathon or guns in San Bernardino, Orlando, Aurora or Las Vegas.
Politicians, whether in America or NZ, feel the need to do something rather than step back and analyze, think and offer thoughtful responses. The response of the NZ prime minister is much what we see from politicians here. NZ doesn’t have a First or Second Amendment, as we do, so it’s easier for them to go after guns and free speech as a response to the shooting.
NZ wants to ban semi-automatic firearms, which covers most standard handguns. They have also criminalized possession or sharing of the shooter’s video or manifesto, with punishment of up to 14 years in prison. Unrestrained by our Bill of Rights, these measures are much easier for NZ to implement.
How easy is it to obtain a gun in NZ under current law? For criminals, it’s quite simple, just as it is in American cities like Chicago with the toughest gun control laws. Simply find a dealer, choose a gun and pay in cash.
But the Christchurch shooter followed existing NZ law. He applied for a firearms license, passed a police background check, a firearms safety course and exam, then underwent a police interview to assess him and his firearm security arrangements, followed by interviews of the shooter’s references. The NZ police then determined he was “a fit and proper person to possess or use firearms.”
The rules were followed with no concerns or red flags. Yet the shooting still occurred. Perhaps the proverbial “good guy with a gun” would have stopped the bad guy with the gun before he killed 50 innocents. Across the Tasman Sea, Australia tried similar gun control measures which have not worked as advertised, and ironically led to an increase in the total number of guns in circulation with no effect on an already declining firearm homicide rate.
Tragedy leads to desperation, but elected officials owe their people calm and thoughtful analysis rather than virtue signaling knee-jerk reactions which will likely not solve the problem, but instead increase the likelihood of the next tragedy.
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