Jacinda Ardern, a true leader
Jacinda Ardern, a true leader

It’s tru­ly refresh­ing to see a coun­try’s lead­er­ship take swift and deci­sive action to improve gun safe­ty laws in the after­math of a hor­rif­ic mass shoot­ing.

New Zealand has banned mil­i­tary-style semi­au­to­mat­ic weapons and assault rifles, Prime Min­is­ter Jacin­da Ardern announced Thurs­day, just six days after attacks on two mosques in Christchurch that left fifty peo­ple dead. A buy­back pro­gram will be launched to take exist­ing weapons out of cir­cu­la­tion, and those who do not com­ply will be sub­ject to fines, she said.

“On 15 March [2019], our his­to­ry changed for­ev­er. Now, our laws will, too,” Ardern said. [Watch the press con­fer­ence.] “We are announc­ing action today on behalf of all New Zealan­ders to strength­en our gun laws and make our coun­try a safer place.”

The gun­man who attacked the Al Noor and Lin­wood mosques here Fri­day used AR-15 rifles in the worst mass shoot­ing New Zealand has ever seen. In addi­tion to the fifty killed, forty peo­ple were injured.

Prime Min­is­ter Jacin­da Arden’s response to the atroc­i­ty in Christchurch will be held up for years as an exam­ple of what to do when tragedy strikes.

From ask­ing the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies how best to help them to griev­ing with them to tak­ing swift mea­sures to improve the safe­ty of her peo­ple, Prime Min­is­ter Arden is show­ing the world what real and effec­tive lead­er­ship is. Props to her government.

We fre­quent­ly refer to heads of state in the world com­mu­ni­ty as nation­al lead­ers, but many of them don’t actu­al­ly lead… they sim­ply occu­py posi­tions of power.

Jacin­da Ardern is dif­fer­ent. New Zealand is extreme­ly for­tu­nate to have her as its cur­rent Prime Min­is­ter. She is uni­fy­ing Kiwis around the uni­ver­sal pro­gres­sive val­ues of tol­er­ance, inclu­sion, mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty, respect, and safety.

And her peo­ple are respond­ing.

New Zealan­ders have begun hand­ing in their firearms to police in the wake of Friday’s mass shoot­ing in Christchurch which result­ed in the deaths of at least fifty people.

New Zealand police said that, as of Tues­day night, at least 37 firearms had been hand­ed in to police offi­cers around the country.

“Until today I was one of the New Zealan­ders who owned a semi-auto­mat­ic rifle,” said John Hart, a farmer who was among those who gave up his weapon. “On the farm they are a use­ful tool in some cir­cum­stances, but my con­ve­nience doesn’t out­weigh the risk of mis­use. We don’t need these in our country.”

Bless you, John Hart. May your words and deeds inspire oth­ers to real­ize that we are safer by putting our trust in each oth­er instead of a regime that per­mits bad actors to buy weapons of war which they can use for mass slaughter.

New Zealand is choos­ing life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness over access to weapons of war. We hope that the day will soon come when the Con­gress of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca makes that same choice. Until then, we’ll con­tin­ue lay­ing the ground­work for a coun­try that insists on safe, respon­si­ble gun ownership.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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