March 15, 2019 was a day of tragedy for the people of New Zealand and Muslims around the world. Brenton Tarrant opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 people. The victims were conducting their Friday prayers at Al Noor Mosque, where 42 were killed, and at the Linwood Mosque, where another seven people were killed. Tarrant posted a “manifesto” on Facebook shortly before the shooting began. This post consisted of far-right and white nationalistic ramblings, showing his disdain for Muslims and immigrants. Clearly Tarrant felt no remorse for the lives that he took and the families and communities he devastated when he made a white power gesture with his hands during his first court appearance, as if this situation was not horrific enough.
The public response to the shooting has been of respect, solidarity, and action, especially from the New Zealand government. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rightfully called Tarrant’s actions as a terrorist attack. In regard to New Zealand’s “widespread availability of weapons,” Prime Minister Ardern firmly stated that “today that anomaly ends.” Just a few days after the shooting, Prime Minister Ardern enacted a temporary ban on semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles. Although former legislation required a person to license to buy and own firearms, New Zealand Parliament was virtually unanimous in their efforts to drastically change the country’s gun laws after the shooting. According to Vox, legislation to make the ban permanent and implement a buy-back program of banned weapons passed in parliament with a vote of 120-1. With the buy-back program, similar to what was successfully implemented in Australia after a mass shooting there in 1996, owners of outlawed weapons must return them to the government for a financial reimbursement. In just 26 days, New Zealand was able to advance the safety of its people and join the dozens of modern nations that want to put an end to gun violence and the senseless deaths that accompany it.