New Zealand

New Zealand parliament has voted 119-1 to ban assault weapons. This vote comes one month after the terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The first attack was at Al Noor Mosque and the second was at Linwood Islamic Centre. The mass shootings led to 50 lives lost and many more injured. One day after the shooting, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced there would be immediate action taken. She stated that “within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer.”

New Zealand has around 1.2 million civilian-owned firearms, which is one firearm per every four people. The United States has more than one gun per person on average. Like the United States, New Zealand had a widespread accessibility to guns, and they require their citizens to have a license to own and carry a gun with them, but the process to obtain a license is a lot more challenging than the United States. In New Zealand a license applicant has to go through a process in which the government checks their criminal record, drug and alcohol use, history of violence, and other factors. After they have been cleared, they are required to go through a firearms safety course. Once their license is obtained, they have to renew it every ten years, and if seen being used for dangerous purposes, an officer can take the gun from the owner. Gun sellers are also monitored by police and are required to comply with storage and inspection requirements. This whole process is to ensure the safety of the country. In fact, they pride themselves for being one of the safest countries in the world and have not had a mass shooting since 1997. Compare that to the United States, where according to the Gun Violence archive, there have been 87 mass shootings since the beginning of 2019 and almost no reforms put in place to stop them.

The United States has made it very difficult for itself to change gun laws due to the Second Amendment and the presence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) within politics. While the Second Amendment can be debated for hours, it is inevitably in the United States Constitution and nothing much can be done about it in a short amount of time because it allows citizens the right to bear arms. However, the NRA uses the Second Amendment for their benefit. Because the NRA is connected to millions of members and supporters, they can tell those who believe in the Second Amendment to call Congress and protect their right. This type of power allows the NRA to control many members of Congress and is one of the main reasons gun reforms have been so tricky to pass. In New Zealand, there is no such thing as the NRA or any other huge pro-gun organization that can create obstacles for gun reform. There is also no constitutional right that allows citizens to own guns. Along with that, the Parliamentary system is a much easier way for legislation to be passed. The Parliamentary system is when citizens elect their representatives. These representatives then form a ruling coalition, which then picks a prime minister. For any law to be passed, it just needs to be passed by the coalition. In the United States, in order for a law to be passed, it must go through the U.S. House and Senate, and then the president has to sign off on it. Another huge benefit for New Zealand is that many gun owners do not feel as connected to their guns as those in U.S. In fact, many of them fully understand why the reforms are being put in place, and how it will make their country safer as a whole. Simon Bridges, the leader of the opposition National Party said, “I am open to any and all changes.” He understands why the gun laws needed to change and the importance of working together to make it happen. Lastly, the Police Association is also backing up the prime minister, stating that they fully support the reforms as they do not want any more of these attacks to occur again.    

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