Last Friday, semiautomatic assault weapons were used to kill 50 people people worshipping in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. On Wednesday, Jacinda Ardern, the nation’s prime minister, announced plans to ban all military-style weapons in the country.
“Today I am announcing that New Zealand will ban all military-style semiautomatic weapons,” she said. “We will also ban all assault rifles. We will ban all high-capacity magazines. We will ban all parts with the ability to convert semiautomatic or any other type of firearm into a military-style semiautomatic weapons. We will ban parts that cause a firearm to generate semiautomatic, automatic or close to automatic gunfire. In short, every semiautomatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.”
“Today I am announcing that New Zealand will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons.” – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) March 21, 2019
Ardern added that the ban she is proposing would necessitate a buyback of military style semi-automatic weapons currently in circulation in New Zealand. “It’s about all of us, it’s in the national interest and it’s about safety,” she said.
The move contrasts starkly with how the United States has responded to mass shootings. Politicians have been quick to offer their thoughts and prayers to victims and their families, but little has been done to curb the availability of military-style firearms that enable such acts of terrorism.
After Ardern announced the ban, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) praised the decision on Twitter while bringing attention to the inaction in Congress. “Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks w/ #HR8,” she wrote. “Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market.”
Introduced in January by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), H.R. 8, or the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, prohibits the private transfer of firearms unless a licensed third party first takes possession of the weapon and performs a check. In other words, it requires a screening process for every gun sale, not just those by licensed dealers, who are already required to perform checks. The bill passed in the House of Representatives in February, mostly along party lines.
— Mike Thompson (@RepThompson) February 27, 2019
A day later, the House passed H.R. 1112, or the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which extends the period of time federal authorities have to conduct checks. It’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will take up either bill for a vote.
Even if the Senate were to pass the bills, the White House has indicated that President Trump would veto them. “The extensive regulation required by H.R. 8 is incompatible with the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to keep arms,” the administration said in a statement. “By overly extending the minimum time that a licensed entity is required to wait for background check results, H.R. 1112 would unduly impose burdensome delays on individuals seeking to purchase a firearm.”
Trump has waffled on gun control in the wake of mass shootings like the 2017 massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 dead, and the 2018 attack in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead at Stoneman Douglas High School. Following the latter shooting, Trump expressed support for passing background check legislation. “The president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. He tweeted about it, too.
I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
Nevertheless, the statement issued by the White House a year and three days after the president’s tweet calling for comprehensive checks makes clear that his “advisors would recommend he veto the bill” if either H.R. 8 or H.R. 1112 makes it to his desk.
In January, a Quinnipiac poll found that 95 percent of Democrats, 89 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of independents support background checks for all gun sales.