New Zealand: Demanding gun control after massacre
The whole of New Zealand is struggling to express the “outrage, sadness, and disgust” it feels after the worst mass shooting in this country’s history, said Jane Bowron in The Press (New Zealand). Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with murder after he allegedly shot dead at least 50 Muslims and wounded some 50 more at two separate mosques in Christchurch last week, using a head-mounted video camera to live-stream the slaughter on Facebook. Those killed—the youngest 3 years old, the oldest 77—were “our fellow New Zealanders,” many of them refugees who “came to this country in search of safe harbor.” The toll would have been even higher but for an act of heroism by an Afghan refugee, said Nick Perry in The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia). As the gunman opened fire on the second mosque, worshipper Abdul Aziz, 48, grabbed “the first thing he could find, a credit card machine, and ran outside screaming ‘Come here!’” Aziz hurled the machine at the shooter, who ran to his car, and then picked up a rifle abandoned by the gunman and used it bash in the attacker’s windshield, causing him to speed away. Police “managed to force the car from the road and drag out the suspect soon after.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been our rock in this tragedy, said Claire Trevett in The New Zealand Herald (New Zealand). Dressed “in a head scarf, her face dragged with grief,” she mourned with the Muslim community in Christchurch. Then she turned steely. She promised to announce new gun control reforms within 10 days. Ardern told the attacker—who allegedly used five legally bought guns in the massacre, including two semi-automatic rifles—that “you may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you.” And when President Donald Trump asked in a phone call what the U.S. could do to help, she pointedly told him to offer “sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.” That’s what Kiwis have done, said Ben Leahy, also in the Herald. We’ve piled up flowers outside mosques and Islamic centers and donated millions of dollars to funds for victims’ families. And with mosques closed over security concerns, Christian churches have stepped in to organize memorials and events.
It’s a start, said Gaurav Sharma in Stuff.co.nz. We’ve been emphasizing that the attacker wasn’t from New Zealand, but there is racism and bigotry here too. When I ran for office in the city of Hamilton in 2017, people refused to shake my hand “because my skin tone did not match theirs.” So the next time your local Lions Club wears blackface for a parade, or you see a gas station with “the Confederate flag proudly hanging” out front, “speak up.” We must also make sure the government keeps its word on gun control, said Mike O’Donnell, also in Stuff. The shooter should never have been allowed to buy an AR-15—basically an “assault rifle in drag”—or 40- and 60-round magazines. I’m a hunter, but nobody needs such a gun. And “after last week, morally they won’t be acceptable.” ■