On Thursday, March 21, following the horrific Christchurch mosque shootings, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared the banning of all “military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines” in the country. For her, all it took to make the decision was this one incident, no matter how devastating. Why is it still so hard for the United States to do so?
The facts are that our track record with mass shootings is far worse than New Zealand’s. The Christchurch incident was the deadliest in their history, and the first in over two decades. In the past two decades, the United States has had over twenty, almost all of them involving semi-automatic weapons. Furthermore, a shockingly high number of them were hate-related (see: Charleston, Orlando, and Pittsburgh most recently).
The problem, then, arises not just from gun legislation. The Christchurch shooter referenced Pewdiepie, a prominent Youtuber who has in the past run into trouble for saying and publishing racist and anti-Semitic ideas online, before opening fire. While free speech is a given right in most countries, the resurgence of far right movements weaponizes such into a vehicle of hatred and harm against certain groups. The citing of Pewdiepie also demonstrates how deeply rooted this culture of hate is in global society. A successful solution to this issue will have to come from multiple fronts.
That is easier said than done, though. The reluctance of the current American administration to make concrete steps towards tightening gun laws and the inability of grassroots groups and efforts such as school walkouts to make considerable impacts on said administration’s actions puts opposing groups in the U.S. at an impasse. So what can we do? Donating to crowdfunding campaigns and speaking out against racism and xenophobia is a start, but the question still remains: how many more atrocities must be committed before the American government takes action?