Seizing the moment

In one week, Jacinda Ardern has done what U.S. leaders have failed at for decades

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Police Stuart Nash speak to media during a press conference at Parliament on March 21, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern unveiled a comprehensive gun control law on Thursday that would ban military-style semiautomatic weapons in order to prevent mass-shootings like the Christchurch mosque attack that killed 50 people.

“Today, I’m announcing New Zealand will ban all military-style semiautomatic weapons,” Ardern told reporters at a news conference in Wellington. “We will also ban all assault rifles. We will ban all high-capacity magazines. We will ban all parts with the ability to convert semiautomatic or any other type of firearm into a military-style semiautomatic weapon.”

“What we’re banning today are the things used in last Friday’s attack,” she added. “It’s about all of us, it’s in the national interest and it’s about safety.”

Ardern’s proposed ban would also require owners of banned guns to sell back the weapons to the government — a challenge made problematic by a lack of laws requiring registration of firearms. Just 4 percent of an estimated 1.5 million firearms in the country are registered, according to police.

Nonetheless, the plan has received widespread support from New Zealanders. The largest opposition party has pledged to support Ardern’s gun control efforts, and interest groups such as Fish and Game, the agency that regulates hunting, have also said they would support the ban. Ardern said she hopes to see the law enacted by the end of Parliament’s next session on April 11, and that she would move to effectively prohibit new purchases of the banned weapons by denying permits for them until after the legislation was passed.

The white supremacist accused of carrying out the Christchurch shooting used five legally acquired guns — including two semiautomatic assault weapons — during his attack, according to police. The alleged killer was also a licensed gun owner and a member of a local gun club.

Ardern’s remarkable success rallying support behind common-sense gun control stands at stark contrast to similar efforts in the U.S., where it remains not only possible, but shockingly easy to legally purchase deadly military-grade weapons from stores.

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

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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