By Robert A. Vella
Islamophobic white supremacist Brenton Harrison Tarrant has been named as the shooter in the deadly domestic terrorist attack that killed at least 49 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday. He was armed with five guns including two semi-automatic weapons which he had purchased legally. Compared to neighboring Australia, New Zealand’s gun laws are less restrictive and closer to those in the U.S. which is suffering from the worst gun violence endemic among the world’s developed nations.
The analogy to the U.S. is especially concerning since Tarrant had praised President Trump on social media as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” and that both men have used similar language in labeling their respective targets as “invaders.” Trump, of course, was referring to immigrants and asylum seekers from Central America which he wants to stop with a continuous wall across the border with Mexico.
Although Trump, in his post-attack comments, refused to admit that the problem of violent white supremacy was serious and getting worse, it is nonetheless a demonstrable fact. Countries so afflicted, and which have lax gun control laws, are vulnerable to such mass shootings because the weaponry involved directly correlates to the number of potential victims.
While New Zealand’s laws governing the purchase of semiautomatic rifles are more restrictive than those in the United States, the country is much freer with firearms than Australia is, allowing most guns to be purchased without requiring them to be tracked.
“New Zealand is almost alone with the United States in not registering 96 percent of its firearms — and those are its most common firearms, the ones most used in crimes,” said Philip Alpers of GunPolicy.org, a clearinghouse for gun law data worldwide. “There are huge gaps in New Zealand law, even if some of its laws are strong.”
“If he went to New Zealand to commit these crimes,” Mr. Alpers said, “one can assume that the ease of obtaining these firearms may have been a factor in his decision to commit the crime in Christchurch.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Saturday morning that “our gun laws will change” following the mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques that left 49 people dead.
“There were five guns used by the primary perpetrator,” she said at a news conference in Wellington. “There were two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns. The offender was in possession of a gun license. I’m advised this was acquired in November of 2017. A lever-action firearm was also found.”
She said the suspect, identified as Brenton Tarrant, obtained a gun license in November 2017 and began purchasing guns legally in December 2017.
“While work is being done as to the chain of events that lead to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now. Our gun laws will change.” Ardern said.