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PM Jacinda Ardern and police minister Stuart Nash making the announcement on gun law changes, 22 March 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)
PM Jacinda Ardern and police minister Stuart Nash making the announcement on gun law changes, 22 March 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)

The BulletinMarch 22, 2019

The Bulletin: Plenty more work to do on gun law changes

PM Jacinda Ardern and police minister Stuart Nash making the announcement on gun law changes, 22 March 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)
PM Jacinda Ardern and police minister Stuart Nash making the announcement on gun law changes, 22 March 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Bi-partisan changes to gun laws announced, immigration minister urged to step in on visas of attack victim families, and stats lay bare Islamophobia in media.

The first major law change since the Christchurch terrorist attacks has been announced. The PM has announced that all of the weapons used in the attack will be banned, basically effective immediately through interim orders. That should prevent further stockpiling, which there were reports of in the immediate aftermath of PM Ardern signalling tougher gun control measures.

In terms of the specifics: Military-style semi automatics, assault rifles, and the parts needed to convert other weapons into these sorts of weapons, will all be banned. There will be very narrow exemptions – for example professional hunters and other pest controllers will be able to apply for one. However, as Maria Slade writes on The Spinoff, there is still a significant amount of work to do to make sure the law is written in such a way so that it nails down the actual intention of this announcement. Sydney based expert Philip Alpers says while it’s a bold move, gun manufacturers and lobbyists are crafty, and may simply design parts capable of just slipping through loopholes. The announcement also followed the delivery of a petition, tens of thousands strong, calling for a ban on all semi-automatic weapons – but just to be clear that isn’t what the announcement specifies.

For those who already own one of these weapons, a buyback scheme is coming. People who want to take them into the police are advised to call ahead first – it’s a tense time at police stations of course, and they don’t want floods of armed people turning up unexpectedly. Overall the government estimates the buyback will cost between $100-200 million.

Future moves are also being considered, including tighter gun licensing conditions – after all, the alleged terrorist had a gun license. Work is also being considered on the Arms Act to make it fit for purpose regardless of how technology develops.

The politics of this move have been interesting. National have been good to their word of working constructively, and will back these changes, reports Stuff. Federated Farmers have also conceded that while some members won’t support it, the organisation as a whole will. It’s unpacked well by Politik, which reports that the final position that was settled on was something of a compromise – “what the Prime Minister clearly wanted to avoid was provoking a full-on fight with the rural community and the gun lobby.” The new law will be passed under urgency in the coming weeks, and there is plenty of detail still to be ironed out.

The eyes of the world have been on New Zealand this week, and the decision has caused an outpouring of commentary in other countries. Radio NZ put together a wrap of reaction, largely US voices who drew contrasts to mass shootings there, which have not led to law changes. It’s on the BBC, it’s on the Liberation news site in France, it’s on the Globe and Mail in Canada, and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Decisive, bi-partisan lawmaking is pretty rare in all of those countries, and it’s pretty rare here too, to be honest. It’s a terrible shame that it took such a tragedy to make it happen. And it’s arguably one of the easier moves politicians will make in the aftermath – because as the NRA in America always argues, it’s not the guns that are the problem, it’s the people who commit evil acts that are the problem. And while they use that framing to cynically block effective gun control laws, there is a grain of truth in it. Much more will need to be done to stop attacks like this being carried out in the first place.

The immigration minister is being asked to intervene in situations where the families of victims need visas, reports Radio NZ. A fast-tracking process for those coming from overseas is underway, but immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont says problems could arise for families living here. Mr McClymont says minister Iain Lees-Galloway should step in and grant special dispensations, to prevent bureaucratic decisions going against families on technical grounds. The families of those killed have been assured there’s no chance of being deported.

Frequently this week, Muslim people have noted they don’t get a fair deal in the media on a regular basis. Mediawatch have reported a staggering statistic that demonstrates that is overwhelmingly true, based on research by Khairiah Rahman and Azadeh Emadi. 14,349 stories involving Islam were run across NZ’s media in 2017. Almost 13,000 of them included references to terrorism or Islamic jihad. That’s a shocking and wholly inaccurate picture of Islam in New Zealand (and many other countries too.) It simply has to change.

An enormous crowd of mourners has turned out for the Auckland funeral of one of the victims of the Christchurch attacks, reports the NZ Herald. Imam Hafiz Musa Patel was a leader in the Fijian city of Lautoka, who was visiting friends in Christchurch. The crowd in Manukau was so large – estimated in the thousands – that it caused traffic disruptions. Imam Patel was remembered as a great figure in Fiji who served the community.

The police will be amending the murder charge against the man accused of carrying out the attack. Stuff reports they had charged him for killing someone who remains alive. However, many more charges are likely to be made, and police have assured the public that there is no possibility whatsoever of him being released.

An Auckland school has stood firm on a ban on students wearing the hijab, reports TRT World. The story was broken by former RNZ journalist Mohamed Hassan, who writes that Auckland Diocesan were given multiple opportunities to comment. The ban would not remain in place for today – when some will be wearing headscarves as an expression of support for the Muslim community. However, the NZ Herald reports the ban may well breach the Human Rights Act and Bill of Rights in the first place, as it arguably discriminates on the grounds of religion.

On the point of how a week since the attack will be marked – there are a large number of events taking place around the country – both today and over the weekend. There will also be two minutes of silence observed nationwide at 1.30, along with a call to prayer broadcast on TVNZ and Radio NZ. That will be broadcast live from Hagley Park in Christchurch.

A clarification of sorts to the story earlier in the week about Turkey’s President Erdogan. He is using footage of the attack on the campaign trail, but his rhetoric isn’t as inflammatory towards New Zealanders as was previously reported. Newshub hosted TRT World journalist Hasan Abdullah, who said the comments referred specifically to attackers of Turkey and Muslim people, rather than blaming either New Zealanders or Christians in general.

An apology – I should have included this sooner in the week. What people have seen, heard, read about and talked about in the last seven days can often be really traumatic. If you, or someone you know, needs mental wellbeing support or advice then call or text 1737 anytime. Here’s some great advice on coping after something like this.

There have been many amazing stories told about those who were killed. To close out this section, I want to share one that for me captured how much of a sense of loss the community will be feeling. Former secretary of the Muslim Association of Canterbury Abdelfattah Qasem has been profiled by Stuff. From travelling here for a few months in 2000, to deciding to settle with his family, he put down deep roots in business and community service. Abdel Qasem was married, with three daughters, and was a few weeks away from seeing his first grandchild for the first time. His story was rich in detail, the sign of a life well lived.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Former PM Helen Clark spoke to Toby Manhire about the ‘monster’ that Facebook has become. The moderators of R/NewZealand on Reddit spoke to Don Rowe about the massive influx of misinformation and hate that flooded the forum in the immediate wake of the attack. Ludovica Di Giorgi & Vidhya Ramalingam say moves to combat white supremacist terrorism need to go beyond simply taking them off the internet. And Auckland youth worker and Christian Aaron Hendry writes about how attempts to divide New Zealanders along religious lines are doomed to fail.

I want to use the feature spot today for a story about something completely different – because sometimes the news can be overwhelming, especially after a tragedy. Sometimes it’s the case that you need to take your mind off it. And so I thought why not share what has got to be one of the best Council stories of the year so far:

Kelley Tantau of the Piako Post reports that $100,000 of public money has been thrown at a parking lot that barely anyone is using in Morrinsville. It was meant to be for overflow parking from the CBD – a dubious prospect given carpark occupancy in the CBD and surrounds averaged only 57% over a weekday, but local businesses wanted it. But it was spotted at 11am on a Thursday completely empty – not a single car in there – so now the Chamber of Commerce has to go out of their way to tell people to use it, so that the District Council’s investment won’t be wasted.

Like I said, it’s a cracker of a good local news story. It’s got town planning hubris, business interests, transport planning. But I also find that at times like this, it can be oddly beautiful to think of day to day life just going on.

The Crusaders have turned down suggestions they change their name, reports One News. Both captain Sam Whitelock and coach Scott Robertson say now is not the time. But they say there will be a time for the conversation to take place in the future.

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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