New Zealand’s Knee-Jerk Response To Terrorism


A police officer armed with a rifle stands watch at the scene of a mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Screen snip, YouTube, CBC)

Fayetteville, AR – -( In a statement a day after the mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared her intention to change the nation’s gun laws, and in a follow-up, the attorney general, David Parker, clarified that semiautomatic rifles will be banned.

This is an unsurprising reaction in a country that lacks the explicit hurdle of a bill of rights on the order of what we enjoy in the United States and in particular does not have protections for gun owners. The Kiwi gun laws are already bad enough, requiring licenses for law-abiding gun owners and restricting several types of firearms—handguns are in the list, and carry is heavily restricted—and declaring that loading a semiautomatic with more than seven rounds to be naughty. Surprise, surprise, the Christchurch shooter broke the law before he broke the law.

And according to advocates of control, piling on more laws is supposed to stop future attacks, even though the present terrorist said that he could have used any of a number of other means of killing and chose guns to promote further gun control in hopes of sparking civil war in the United States.

Or some such muddle. If we’re seeking to hand out blame, the constant push to punish people who didn’t participate in the attacks should get first in line, though that line will extend around the block. The desire to curtail rights is a constant across many groups, and the attitudes of white supremacists looks a lot like that of many gun control advocates with whom I’ve had conversations, namely the notion that some people are more deserving of basic rights than others.

The reality is that some people—be they white supremacists, violent fundamentalists, or agents of tyrannical governments—will seek to kill their fellow human beings. And as the shooting over the weekend in Utrecht in the Netherlands reminds us, a case in which the murderer already had a lengthy criminal record, someone intent on violence against innocents will find a way—even in countries that make legal ownership of firearms exceedingly difficult.

The drumbeat to control guns in response to mass shootings is consistently a failure to recognize the root problems.

Demanding that millions must give up their guns—or some subset of their guns—when a few do something wrong or telling the vast majority that even though we did not commit the particular crime, we must now accept a long list of post hoc burdens that are aimed primarily at making the ignorant feel safe is not a sensible answer, no matter how many times gun control advocates say otherwise, when the causes of violence remain.

I praised Prime Minister Ardern’s statement that New Zealand values diversity and human rights. But that needs to be carried to its conclusion. Gun owners are also a part of a diverse society, and just as with other categories—white, male, religious, or right wing—most members of the group are just trying to get through the day.

I’m not a citizen of New Zealand. Those who are will be the ones who have to deal with their country’s gun laws, and many of them will think that the United States doesn’t offer a good example. But I will suggest that lashing out against people who didn’t commit murder is in the same category—not the same degree, but the same category—as murdering people for being different.

About Greg CampGreg Camp

Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.