Thursday, April 11, 2019

New Zealand bans automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Here's why the U. S. will not do the same.

Here’s an update on New Zealand’s response to the mass shooting a month ago from 538’s significant digits email.

119 to 1
The New Zealand parliament voted 119 to 1 to ban most automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The vote came less than a month after 50 people were killed in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. The lone no vote came from the sole member of the libertarian ACT party. [Associated Press]

New Zealand MPs overwhelmingly back post-Christchurch gun ban. Snippets from the featured report follow.

New Zealand’s parliament has voted to ban military-style weapons, less than a month after 50 people were killed and dozens wounded in mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

A bill outlawing most automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and components that modify existing weapons, was passed by a vote of 119 to 1 in the House of Representatives after an accelerated process of debate and public submission.

The bill needs the approval of New Zealand’s governor general, a formality, before becoming law on Friday.

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, spoke emotionally during the bill’s final reading, telling of the traumatic injuries to the victims of the attacks on 15 March, whom she had visited in hospital.

Ardern, who has received international praise for her compassion and leadership since the shootings, was able to win rare bipartisan support for the bill, which makes it illegal to own a military-style semi-automatic rifle. …

The law includes a buyback scheme under which the owners of outlawed weapons can surrender them to police in return for compensation based on the weapon’s age and condition. Anyone who retains such a weapon after the bill passes into law faces a penalty of up to five years in prison. There are some exemptions, including for heirloom weapons held by collectors or for professional pest control.

Ardern said lawmakers had a responsibility to act on behalf of the victims. “We are ultimately here because 50 people died and they do not have a voice,” she said. “We in this house are their voice. Today we can use that voice wisely.

“We are here just 26 days after the most devastating terrorist attacks created the darkest of days in New Zealand’s history We are here as an almost entirely united parliament. There have been very few occasions when I have seen parliament come together in this way and I cannot imagine circumstances where that is more necessary than it is now.”

Ardern said there had been some opposition from firearms owners, but that the response to the proposed legislation had been overwhelmingly positive. “My question here is simple. You either believe that here in New Zealand these weapons have a place or you do not. If you believe, like us, that they do not, you should be able to believe we can move swiftly. An argument about process is an argument to do nothing,” she said.

And back here at home? Back in the USA? What have we done? We give our feeble and futile “thoughts and prayers” to our own victims of mass shootings. We, as a society, apparently believe that such weapons “have a place”. We keep recycling an “argument about process” and in the end we “do nothing.”

The Washington Post explains the politics behind why we “do nothing” in New Zealand just banned military-style firearms. Here’s why the U.S. can’t.. The causes range from the undue influence of the NRA to the disproportionate representation of rural states in the Senate. The Post concludes:

"The gun lobby has been very influential in convincing people the [Second Amendment prohibits any] form of gun control, which affects the politics over even modest measures,” said [Daniel] Webster [,director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research].

As a result, the United States is likely to remain an outlier on gun reform.

Whereas New Zealand’s prime minister was able to say, “Our gun laws will change,” without having to fear her government would fall apart, the response after the next U.S. mass shooting will continue to be: Our gun laws won’t change, but we can definitely offer thoughts and prayers.

Our inaction speaks volumes about American values. We value our guns more than the lives of our children. Shame on us.

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