Fifty victims. Twenty-six days. That along with common-sense leadership from government officials is what it took for New Zealand to pass a law that bans most semiautomatic weapons in the country. The contrast with the United States is both inescapable and striking. Despite the loss of far more lives in far more mass shootings more than 2,000 mass shootings since the slaughter of elementary school children in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 Congress has refused to make any significant change in federal gun law, including needed reimposition of the ban on the assault rifles that are often the weapon of choice of mass murderers.
I can recall very vividly the moment I knew that we would need to be here, doing what we are doing right now, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday as Parliament voted to outlaw military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles. Attacks on two mosques in Christchurch by a white nationalist on March 15 had killed 50 people and, she said, I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could have been obtained legally in this country. She put a temporary ban in place just days after the terrorist killings. Legislation to make the ban permanent and authorize a buy-back of the banned weapons moved swiftly through Parliament, passing with the support of all but one of the 120 lawmakers.