New Zealand Attacks Parallel American Shootings

The New Zealand parliament has 120 seats.

Wikimedia Commons

The New Zealand parliament has 120 seats.

Bridgette Lang, Opinion and Our World Editor

On Friday, March 15th, an Australian man walked into the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand with a gun and phone in his hand. Then, he entered the Linwood Islamic Centre, livestreaming the attacks. When he left both locations, 50 were dead, and 50 were injured, according to NPR.

“I was really shocked, really, really shocked, because there was so many people who died,” freshman Alicia Prince said. “And New Zealand [is] not a place where you would expect anything [like this] to happen.”

Unfortunately, the United States is all too familiar with gun-related fatalities. Although it may have come as a shock for New Zealand, gun violence of any kind is an everyday event here.

In the United States, our country has experienced religiously-fueled hate and white supremacy mass shooting multiple times within the last couple of years. In 2016, an Orlando nightclub saw 49 deaths, from what was most likely homophobic sentiments. In 2017, the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs saw 26 dead. In 2018, 11 were proclaimed dead at the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

In just a couple of weeks after the Christchurch attacks, the world has seen an almost immediate reaction from New Zealand. Not only did Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern deliver a speech the day of the event, but new gun legislation was passed by the NZ Parliament. Only six days after the shooting, it was drafted, introduced, and passed. The new law was signed into law on March 21, 2019.

“Our history changed forever,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference. “Now, our laws will too.”

The proposal includes a ban on semi-automatics, assault rifles, and high capacity magazines. New Zealand will use a buyback program to remove the banned weapons as soon as April 11, 2019.

“I think the New Zealand government is doing a good job trying to help the families of the victims and passings gun control laws in record time,” sophomore Evan Wimmer said.

Like the United States, New Zealand has had some of the most lenient gun laws of Western countries. This makes this new proposal even more surprising, considering the widespread support after decades of stagnation.

After seeing this, many Americans ask why can’t the United States come together for legislative action? We’ve had many incidents of gun violence within such a short period of time and higher death tolls, so why is the United States waiting?

“Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks w/ #HR8,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez said on Twitter. “Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market. This is what leadership looks like.”

Though there are many comparison to draw between the two countries, there are also considerable differences when looking at New Zealand’s legislative process and political climate.

New Zealand has a population under five million, while the United States has a population of 327 million. With a population that is only a little more than one percent the size of the United States, it may be easier to sway the electorate.

The New Zealand parliament also has less seats, with a total of 120. The US House of Representatives has 435 voting members, while the Senate has 100. Considering this, it is also much easier to gain consensus and persuade others in a smaller group.

It is rather easy to overlook the action that our own local community has taken in the face of gun violence. At SLHS, administrations, staff, and faculty have all encouraged students to practice decision making during our ALICE drills this school year. ALICE is an acronym that stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate, and it is intended to be a more dynamic approach to a traditional “stay and hold” lockdown structure.

See our past article, “Southern Lehigh School District Adopts New Active Shooter Response System” for a deeper look into the ALICE protocol:

With this new knowledge, students are more prepared for whatever and whoever may stand in their way. Now, it is only a waiting game of seeing what the United States Congress will and won’t accomplish.