New Zealand  acts decisively on assault weapons 

Published March 27, 2019, 12:55 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON MAR 27, 2019Six days after a lone gunman killed 50 people  and wounded 50 others in  two mosques in Christchurch,  New Zealand,  the country imposed  a ban on military-style  assault weapons  such as the ones the gunman used —  two semi-automatic weapons with 30-round magazines, two  shotguns,  and a lever-action firearm, all of which he had bought  online.

It was one of New Zealand’s darkest days, said Prime Minister Jacinda  Ardern, the deadliest mass shooting in modern New Zealand  history. New Zealand has just  been ranked by the Global Peace Index as the second safest country in the world behind Iceland.

A great deal of the worldwide reaction had to do with the reasons for the killing. The killer was identified as  a “white supremacist” who had  targeted the Muslims  in their Friday prayers in their mosques. In the UInited States, many officials  hailed  the  swift  action  of  New Zealand’s government in  banning  the  powerful weapons used in the shooting, which had been so easily acquired by the gunman.

The  swift ban  was in marked contrast  to the refusal of the US  to restrict in any way the acquisition  of weapons  by Americans despite repeated mass killings. Gun ownership is a revered  tradition  in   US  history, protected  by Amendment 2 of the American Constitution. Thus, despite  the many mass killings in the US by lone gunmen carrying multiple weapons, American  officials  have refused to restrict the right  to acquire  these weapons.

The deadliest such incident in US history was  on October 1, 2017, when a lone gunman at a hotel window  rained bullets on a big crowd attending an open-air  country music  festival in Las Vegas, Nevada,  killing 58 and wounding over 515. A year later, on November 5, 2018, another gunman  opened fire  on a congregation  during church services in a Baptist church in  Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 and wounding 20.

Before  these,   there were many similar attacks in the US – 14 high school students and three teachers killed in Parkland, Florida, in 2018; 49 killed  in  a nightclub in  Orlando, Florida, in 2016; 32 killed at  Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 2007; 26 killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012;   23 killed in Killeen, Texas, in 1991; and  21 killed  in San Ysidro, California, in 1984.

Students in schools all over the US demonstrated to demand stricter gun laws after each of these incidents, but the US Congress refused to enact any  law  restricting  the  ownership  of  guns. President Donald Trump met with protesting  students  after the Florida high school shooting in 2018, but could  only suggest  arming teachers to protect their students.  Americans have come to expect no government action  to  restrict  the acquisition of firearms, no matter how powerful, by American citizens.

But New Zealand  responded  decisively  to the mass killing in Christchurch,  acknowledging that  a big part of the problem was the easy availability of  powerful  weapons,  so that any person —  Islamic terrorist or white supremacist  or simply one breaking down from  some intense pressure  —  could  easily acquire the means  to strike out with  deadly violence.

So now New Zealand has banned  the easy   acquisition of high-powered  weapons  that  are normally issued only to military forces to use against enemies of the state.  US officials have resisted all efforts to take this step. We can expect  more incidents of  mass killings  in schools, parks, and  churches to continue in that country.