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What Can Other Countries’ Gun Laws Tell Us About Our Own?

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy sign national condolence books at Parliament. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 'our gun laws will change' in a press conference following attacks on two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people on Friday, March 15.
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy sign national condolence books at Parliament. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 'our gun laws will change' in a press conference following attacks on two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people on Friday, March 15.

On Friday, a gunman reportedly wielding two semi-automatic weapons and three rifles opened fire at a mosque in New Zealand, and then a second mosque came under attack. In total, at least 50 people were killed. The next morning, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country’s gun laws will change.

“We were absolutely unified and very clear,” Ardern said on Monday, after New Zealand’s cabinet met and agreed “in principle” to tighten gun control laws. The new laws will likely focus on semi-automatic weapons.

“I know that this might, for a short period, create a small degree of uncertainty for some gun owners, including those who possess guns for legitimate reasons,” Ardern continued. “And I particularly acknowledge those in our rural communities. I want to assure you that the work we are doing is not directed at you. In fact, I strongly believe that the vast majority of gun owners in New Zealand will agree with the sentiment that change needs to occur. I, in fact, believe that they will be with us.”

Many have pointed out the stark contrast between New Zealand’s swift move toward a legislative response and the typical response in the United States when mass shootings occur. New Zealand’s gun control laws are already much stricter than those in the U.S., but as NPR reports, “virtually everyone who applies for a firearm license [in New Zealand] gets it. Once applicants have that license, powerful weapons are available to them.”

One of our listeners wrote to us in the wake of the tragedy:

I am a native of Christchurch and am grieving for my city and the families of the victims. I have also lived in the American south for many years and have observed the stark contrast in attitudes towards guns in both countries.

New Zealand does not have a ‘gun culture.’ We have a strong and proud hunting culture, Olympic champion sharpshooters, and small but fiercely professional military forces and police Armed Offenders squads. But any Kiwi espousing the Second Amendment arguments that are mainstream in much of the US would be regarded as a nut.

I, along with most New Zealanders, am surprised that our gun laws are significantly less stringent than Australia’s. I have every confidence that the government and citizens of New Zealand will work together to ensure this will soon no longer be the case. Although there is an effort to ‘report both sides’ and give voice to opponents to tightening our gun laws, please recognize that the vast majority of Kiwis regard guns rights activists as a lunatic fringe.

What’s behind these disparities around the globe? And what lessons can the U.S. glean from the way other countries deal with gun safety and gun ownership? We’ll put those questions to our panel.

In the meantime, here’s a look at what it takes to buy a gun in 16 countries, courtesy of The New York Times.

Show produced by Morgan Givens. Text by Kathryn Fink.

GUESTS

Jonathan Metzl, Professor, Sociology and Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University; Author, “Dying of Whiteness”; @JonathanMetzl

Lois Beckett, Senior reporter covering gun politics and policy, Guardian U.S.; @loisbeckett

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

© 2019 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2019 WAMU 88.5

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