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The owner of Gun City has admitted that his business sold four weapons to the alleged terrorist (Getty Images)
The owner of Gun City has admitted that his business sold four weapons to the alleged terrorist (Getty Images)

The BulletinMarch 19, 2019

The Bulletin: Multi-party consensus gets closer to gun law changes

The owner of Gun City has admitted that his business sold four weapons to the alleged terrorist (Getty Images)
The owner of Gun City has admitted that his business sold four weapons to the alleged terrorist (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Multi-party consensus starts to form on gun law changes, moving student led vigil held in Christchurch, and inquiry into attack announced.

Across parliament, a consensus has formed that New Zealand’s gun laws need to change. The pressure is coming on particularly with regards to military style semi-automatics weapons. It comes in the wake of the terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques, during which one of the weapons used is believed to have been a modified AR-15.

Early yesterday morning, National party leader Simon Bridges made it clear to Radio NZ that he will follow the government’s lead on what changes they want to make. He didn’t get into specifics – saying he wasn’t an expert – but agreed change was needed, and promised National would respond constructively. The previous National government had opted to not implement the majority of gun control recommendations put forward by the Police Association in 2017. But on Newshub, Mr Bridges said the party’s position was now completely different, because of the change in circumstances.

The potential gun law changes dominated the day, highlighted by two other press conferences. The Spinoff’s business editor Maria Slade covered them both. During the first, David Tipple the owner of Gun City admitted his store had sold four other weapons (but not the semi-automatic) believed to have been used during the terrorist attack. However, he belligerently defended selling them to the accused murderer, because the sales were entirely within the laws. That quite possibly highlights serious flaws in the ease of obtaining a firearms license. Who is David Tipple, you might ask? He was profiled in this revealing Stuff piece by Philip Matthews in 2015.

The second press conference was PM Jacinda Ardern’s post-cabinet briefing, in which she revealed that cabinet had unanimously decided to unveil law changes by next week. She didn’t confirm if that would include a ban on assault rifles. So while there is now consensus that gun laws do need to change, the details from all parties are still vague. Expect significant lobbying from interested parties to take place in the coming days.  

The events have exposed significant fault-lines within New Zealand’s gun-owning community – the vast majority of whom are law-abiding, mainly using the weapons for hunting and farming. Unlike Gun City, some are being proactive ahead of law changes. For example, the Hunting and Fishing chain have pulled all military-style semi automatics from their stores, reports the Marlborough Express, and in general terms support tighter gun control laws. TradeMe have also pulled that type of weapon from sale. Some gun owners are even voluntarily handing them in. It’s all a marked contrast from the reports of panic-buying that accompanied earlier news that gun laws were going to change.

But it’s worth repeating this piece published on Sunday on The Spinoff by William L – New Zealand has a lot of loopholes in our gun laws that make building up an incredibly dangerous arsenal all too easy. Stuff has a table in this article that shows how even compared to countries like the USA, New Zealand’s gun laws are really loose. That is likely to be the most immediate law change to come out of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, but it is unlikely to be the only change.

A moving, mass vigil has been held in Christchurch, with students from schools all over the city. The Press was there, and reported that thousands were there, at the student-organised event themed around the idea of light and love driving out darkness. Cashmere High School was particularly hard hit by the attacks, with seven people associated with the school understood to have been killed – including current students. Vigils continue to be held around the country and the world, and we have gathered together a collection of images that show the depth of feeling over what has happened.

An inquiry will be held into the events of March 15, with a particular focus on why the attack wasn’t prevented. The SIS and GCSB have welcomed the inquiry, reports Radio NZ, and are likely to face significant scrutiny as to why the alleged terrorist wasn’t on their radar, and whether they have over-committed resources to surveilling the Muslim community rather than protecting them. SIS boss Rebecca Kitteridge says in the last nine months, the organisation has increased their efforts relating to white supremacist groups.

There’s a particularly useful piece of analysis on Politik around this, looking into what will be likely to come out of the inquiry. Richard Harman suggests that it is inevitable the white supremacist networks will be uncovered in the process. But there’s another angle he pursues – it is possible the spy agencies will push for more power to intercept internet communications, or more resources to monitor a wider range of communications.

A teenager has appeared in court, charged with allegedly reposting the live stream of the Christchurch mosque attack on Facebook. Stuff reports there are heavy suppression orders in place. He has also been charged with “making an objectionable publication showing a photograph of the mosque in Deans Avenue with the message “Target Acquired” and further chat messaging around inciting extreme violence.” The second charge relates to alleged activity in the week before the attack took place.

Had it been announced on any other day, this probably would have been a much bigger story, as would the next few pieces. But the first one happened on Friday, and so news editors justifiably devoted all of their people to covering Christchurch.

The PM has announced a plan to develop a hydrogen fuel production industry in Taranaki, reports Radio NZ. At this stage, it is just a roadmap, but it’s significant because Taranaki is the regional centre of fossil fuel production in New Zealand. That potentially means jobs for those who will be affected by oil and gas exploration ban – though Taranaki had been given a temporary exemption from that – meaning the transition might be easier for the region towards production of a greener fuel source.

It seemed to be timed to take place on the same day as the student climate strikes, which were held around the country. We published rolling coverage of the strikes, including in the Taranaki region. We also published a photo essay of some of the participants – of whom there were estimated to be tens of thousands around the country – to make it clear who would be most affected if action on climate change isn’t taken.

Students are speaking out about a pervasive culture of sexual abuse and harassment at Knox College, a student hall in Dunedin. The story comes from Critic Te Arohi, who have detailed multiple instances, on a spectrum from misogyny to sexual violence. Many are simply disgraceful, and in many cases there were no consequences faced by alleged perpetrators. Leadership of the college say they’re working to end the culture, but still have a long way to go.

A new book has claimed that lobbyists from various industries clubbed together to destroy NZ’s Public Health Commission, reports Stuff. Dr David Skegg was the chairman of the PHC in the 90s, when it was disbanded, and he made a promise to himself at the time to one day tell the full story about what happened. The lobbyists he points the finger at include tobacco, dairy, alcohol and food organisations. Dr Skegg says the disbanding left New Zealand in a more vulnerable position when public health crises struck.

Since yesterday’s Bulletin, a lot of praise has come in about journalists who covered the Christchurch attacks. I chose to share this one from Barbara, about Newshub reporter Thomas Mead, because I agreed with it wholeheartedly. Watching the news on the day, his work was outstanding.

“I was very impressed with his first rate reporting on the situation – no breathless rushing adrenaline – just quietly and in a composed way reporting what he had been able to establish.

His interview with the distressed woman who had tried to help an injured man into her vehicle and with the help of another motorist attend to his wounds, was full of consideration and compassion. Especially when he said to the weeping woman “Can I give you a hug?”

I though he was first class.”

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Thousands turned for the Wellington Vigil held at the Basin Reserve (Photo: Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: We have done our utmost the centre Muslim voices in the aftermath of these attacks, and here is a collection of writing published both on The Spinoff and other news sites. Iranian New Zealander Donna Miles-Mojab offers practical steps for what you can do against the scourge of racist hatred. Dr Nasya Bahfen condemns the role Australian media and government has played in stoking Islamophobia – and it’s not just the obvious fascists like Senator Fraser Anning. And Emily Writes filed this report from the immense and powerful Wellington vigil held on Sunday night.

The stories of those killed in the mosque attack continue to be told. There isn’t any special reason why I’ve picked these stories out and not others, except I just found that after I read them, I had to stop and take some time to process them. As with all of the victims, the unfairness of their lives being cut short in this way is staggering.

Lilik Abdul Hamid is being remembered as a sincere, giving and selfless man, reports Radio NZ. He moved to Christchurch in 2003 and worked for Air New Zealand for many years. His family would sometimes refer to him as MacGyver, because he was the first person people would call to fix things. He is being deeply mourned by them, and his colleagues – many of whom became good friends as well.

Atta Elayyan was a national Futsal representative, and a hugely respected member of the New Zealand tech community. His achievements are recorded in this Medium post, written by a friend, who said “Atta was a friend who gave so much to everyone that knew him. What he achieved in his short life is more than most.” Atta leaves behind a wife and a two year old daughter.

Sayyad Milne was just 14 years old. His father told the NZ Herald that above all, he was a courageous boy, who rose above unfair treatment that he had endured. Sayyad loved football, and was described as having kind eyes. He wanted to grow up to be either an architect or an engineer.

Husna Ahmed helped rescue many of the women and children who were in the mosque when the shooting started, reports Newshub. Her husband Farid Ahmed, who uses a wheelchair, was preparing himself to be ready for death, not expecting his wife would be able to return for him. However, Husna tried to do just that, and was killed coming back inside. Farid says she would have wanted him to forgive the killer. “She’s brave, and she gave her life saving others.”

Sport has taken a backseat in the last few days, with the events of Christchurch clearly just as much on the minds of players and coaches. Stuff reports the Wellington Phoenix have won again, with the team offering almost no commentary or celebration at all on that. Instead, the game was marked by gestures like both teams coming together before kickoff for a minute of silence, and Roy Krishna bowing his head in prayer as a tribute after scoring.

From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.

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