It’s not just how comprehensive the ban is that makes it draconian, notes Philip Klein, it’s the fact that it’s coming straight from the top, by virtual decree of the prime minister and her cabinet. Supporters note that New Zealand’s parliament stands foursquare behind her, with even the major opposition party in favor of the ban, but it’s difficult politically for the opposition to get crosswise with a country’s leader after a major terror attack. 9/11 gave us the Patriot Act and the Iraq war, two initiatives that drew plenty of Democratic support if only because the minority party didn’t want to seem “soft” on malefactors. Now here’s Jacinda Ardern yanking broad classes of weapons out of the public’s hands with no constitutional provisions to stop her and little political will in the legislature, for whatever reason.
American leftists are thrilled, Klein marvels, despite all the hot rhetoric lately about Trump’s ability to gain new powers for himself by declaring a national emergency.
Bernie and AOC can at least point to recurring mass shootings in the United States to justify their populist fantasy of a powerful executive mass-confiscating weapons from the feral citizenry. New Zealand can’t. As I noted last week, there were 65 total murders by firearm between 2007 and 2016 in NZ, a country with more than a million guns in circulation. I searched in vain today for statistics on how many murders were committed there specifically with “military-style” semiautomatics over the previous decade, but in the U.S. the vast majority of homicides by firearm are committed with handguns, not assault rifles, for the logical reason that handguns are easier to conceal. Assuming the same is true in New Zealand (and why wouldn’t it be?), the number murdered by “military-style” guns in the decade before the mosque massacre might be in the single digits.
Ardern’s ban isn’t comprehensive, in other words, because violence from those guns was a systemic problem for NZ before that degenerate started shooting on March 15. It’s comprehensive because authorities there have sought for years to get political traction on restricting guns but have been stymied by the local gun lobby. The massacre provided an opportunity to overcome that resistance so Ardern is taking it, seemingly without a thought for the interests of the gun-owning population that’s behaved almost entirely peaceably for many years. (Owning a firearm is a privilege, not a right, she sniffed at her audience today.) Instead of a comprehensive ban, they could have merely banned large-capacity magazines instead. They could have ratcheted up the requirements for a permit. They could have limited the number of guns one is allowed to own. They could have flatly excluded foreigners from purchasing guns if they’re worried about Australians trying to skirt their home country’s strict gun laws by traveling to NZ instead, which may be what happened in this case. A total ban under the circumstances feels less like a “because we need to” solution than a “because we can” one. They had their chance, so they acted.
Update: A reader from New Zealand reaches out to say that my assumption about handguns causing most gun homicides there is very likely wrong. Handguns are strictly regulated, requiring a permit, limits on where they can be fired, and so on. Long guns are much more common. Duly noted, although I’m still curious to know what percentage of homicides are caused by “military-style” guns versus other classes of weapon.