Some of the bodies from the Christchurch terrorist attack haven’t been buried yet, but already gun controller advocates have jumped on the atrocity to push their agenda. It’s paying off, too — the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has already announced new restrictions on gun ownership. Leftists are claiming the attack shows why Americans need to have their guns taken away, and say Ardern’s response is evidence that something can be done. So, is this an example of lax gun laws causing a massacre, and gun control riding to the rescue to prevent another one? Well, that depends on what New Zealand’s gun laws looked like before Christchurch.
- The first thing to know about New Zealand is that the country has no equivalent of the Second Amendment. Although it inherited its legal system from Britain, the old laws guaranteeing the right to bear arms have been forgotten, and gun ownership is seen as a privilege, not a right.
- New Zealand firearms law is based on vetting gun owners. To own guns, citizens need a firearms license issued by the police, and to get a license they have to prove that they have a valid reason to own guns. Hunting, sport shooting, pest control and collecting all qualify as valid reasons — but self-defense doesn’t.
- As well as a license, citizens also need to be age 16 or over, have approved secure gun storage (a gun cabinet or strongroom), attend a safety program, pass a written safety test and pay a fee.
- Getting a license is no easy matter. Police interview the applicant and two referees — one close relative and one unrelated person. There are very thorough background checks; mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, extremist links or any criminal record will probably mean a refusal.
- Possession of a license makes it legal to own shotguns, bolt or lever-action rifles, or semi-auto rifles with a magazine capacity of seven rounds or less. Other weapons — including handguns, rifles with larger-capacity magazines or “military-style semi-automatics” — need extra endorsements on the license. Getting an endorsement usually means showing a reason to own the gun and undergoing extra background checks.
- The reality is gun laws in New Zealand were already far stricter than anything that would be possible in the US. Gun control isn’t the solution to massacres like what happened in Christchurch. New Zealand already has gun control — and it didn’t work.