The people of New Zealand have handed over at least 10,242 firearms since July 13, the start of a nationwide buyback program in the wake of a terrorist attack in March that killed 51 people and injured dozens more, according to a new report from CNN. The alleged white supremacist terrorist livestreamed his attacks on two Christchurch mosques, leading to calls for tighter gun laws and better policing of extremist content on social media in New Zealand and around the world.
The alleged terrorist, a 28-year-old Australian national, used several semi-automatic weapons that had been acquired legally in 2017. Authorities believe he specifically targeted New Zealand because he said Muslims felt safe there. The suspect pleaded not guilty to the murder and terrorism charges in June, despite appearing in the gruesome first-person video where he can be seen killing everyone in sight, including children as young as 3 years old.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s youngest Prime Minister ever, spearheaded the legislation that banned semi-automatic firearms. All of the guns that have been surrendered in New Zealand are being destroyed, and anyone with an illegal gun in the country has five more months to hand them in and receive compensation.
Some gun owners whose weapons are now illegal in New Zealand are not happy with the new laws, arguing that they haven’t been part of the national conversation. Unlikely in the U.S., much of the frustration in New Zealand has less to do with the fact that they have to surrender their guns and more to do with the price that the government is offering for their now-illicit weapons.
“Some of the offered prices for higher-end firearms are well out of kilter. We’re talking thousands of dollars,” Nicole McKee, a spokesperson for New Zealand’s Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO), told the New Zealand Herald in June. “It may get down to a point where we have to look at court action on behalf of our members, and that is something we will be looking at under advice from our lawyers.”
Gun owners get a percentage of the base price for each gun, according to the New Zealand Herald. Guns rated poor are given 25 percent of their regular value, guns rated as average condition are given 70 percent of their value, and any guns considered new or “near-new” can be traded in for 95 percent of their original price.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has proposed a new firearm registry, but there’s been considerable pushback from the COLFO on that front as well. COLFO has even started a crowdfunding campaign to take legal action, according to Australia’s ABC News.
Australia had its own nationwide gun buyback program in the mid-1990s after a horrific mass shooting in the city of Port Arthur spurred politicians to act. Then-Prime Minister John Howard, a conservative, supported the move and it’s been widely popular down under ever since. Over 700,000 firearms were surrendered, and semi-automatic weapons in the country are now incredibly rare. Australia, which has a population roughly the size of Texas, has had one mass shooting so far in 2019. Texas has had 20 mass shootings so far this year, including a high-profile attack at a Walmart in El, Paso that killed 22 people and injured dozens more.
The U.S. has passed no significant gun control legislation since the 1990s and continues to see gun deaths that are only comparable with failed states. As of the most recent statistics from 2017, the U.S. has 120.5 civilian-held guns per 100 residents.
You read that correctly, America has more guns than people. A gun buyback program for the U.S. would be a great idea, but it would certainly cost the federal government considerable cash. It’d be a rounding error for the Pentagon, but you know that legislators will stop at nothing to protect “gun rights.” It’d be nice if those same legislators started protecting human rights as well.