New Zealand was struck by an unthinkable atrocity on March 15th when a psychopath killed 51 people and wounded at least 50 others. The killer, a hate-fueled 28-year-old Australian, targeted Muslims in and around the Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in the city of Christchurch. It was the worst mass shooting in the island country’s history. In addition to the shootings, the suspect placed multiple improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in various locations. The first 17 minutes of the event was streamed on Facebook Live from a camera worn by the shooter. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the events as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” The small country was left in shock.
Though the attack has been falsely described as the country’s “first mass shooting,” it was certainly the deadliest. Less than a month later, New Zealand’s Parliament followed the lead of Great Britain and Australia, both of which passed sweeping gun bans after mass shootings. New Zealand’s Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act, was amended by a vote of 119 to 1, in favor of restricting “military-style” semiautomatics, magazines with a capacity of 10 or more rounds, and parts that can be used to assemble prohibited firearms.
All centerfire semiauto rifles are now banned, as are rimfire semiautos, pump actions, or other rifles with a high-capacity magazine. Many accessories designed to work with prohibited firearms such as AR-15 uppers, gas tubes and stocks are now unlawful to own. The banned list includes predictable models such as AR-15s and AKs, but it also captured M1 Garands, M1 Carbines, Marlin Model 60 .22s, and Winchester Model 12 shotguns.
Maybe you’re not a fan of so-called “black guns,” but are you ready to turn in grandpa’s Garand or your daughter’s .22? Rest assured that policymakers, the media and activists in the U.S. will look to New Zealand’s actions as a model, just as they did in Australia’s example.
When the U.S. Congress passed its firearm and magazine ban in 1994, it grandfathered existing owners. This isn’t the case in New Zealand where individuals have until December 20, 2019, to surrender their now-illegal firearms and accessories. These collection events, which sound pretty Orwellian to me, will be held country-wide in order to facilitate the surrenders. Owners will be financially compensated for their loss of property up to 95 percent of their original value, depending on the condition. A new AR-15 will fetch $2,200 U.S. dollars, and a used M1 Carbine will go for $1,150. On could argue that those are decent prices, sure, but my rights aren’t for sale.
We haven’t seen serious legislation to actually confiscate firearms at the federal level in this country, but we have seen states such as California where certain firearms and magazines cannot be transferred to another owner. Rather, they have to be removed from the state, altered or destroyed — even after the owner’s death. We may not see collection events in this country, but your gun may very well die with you. This war of attrition might take a generation but, if enacted, it will ultimately prevail.
The U.S. isn’t New Zealand, and we have a different relationship with our elected representatives, but I have little confidence that we won’t see similar attempts here within my lifetime. Could such a ban happen here? You bet. Bills that sit in committees of the U.S. Congress aren’t dissimilar to New Zealand’s legislation. I hope these bills don’t advance, but “hope” isn’t a strategy. Do representatives in Congress know your position?