New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Is Baffled By Lack Of U.S. Gun Control

Jacinda Ardern makes a speech in front of New Zealand flags.
Mark Tantrum / Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed her thoughts on the United States gun laws in an interview with CNN‘s Christiane Amanpour, expressing her shock at how the U.S. has failed to ban automatic and semi-automatic guns despite the hundreds of mass shootings that take place in the country, reported The Guardian.

“Australia experienced a massacre and changed its laws,” Ardern said. “New Zealand has had its experience and changed its laws. To be honest with you, I don’t understand the United States.”

Within weeks of the Christchurch mosque massacre that took place in New Zealand in March of this year, the Labour coalition government voted to ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines.

Prior to the shooting that left 51 people dead, New Zealand had relatively permissive gun legislation. However, Ardern says that despite being a hunting and food-producing nation, access to high-powered military-style rifles cannot be justified.

“We will continue to be a food-producing nation that deals with animal welfare issues and so on, and has a practical purpose and use for guns, but you can draw a line and say that that does not mean that you need access to military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles. You do not. And New Zealanders, by and large, absolutely agreed with that position.”

Since the shooting, Arden has been working on lobbying countries and global tech companies to sign her “Christchurch Call,” a pledge to get rid of violent and terrorist content online. She is currently in Paris meeting with digital ministers from the Group of Seven nations to discuss the plan and urge them to sign the pledge.

The pledge does not include regulatory or enforcement measures, leaving that part up to the individual countries, but it asks tech companies, including tech giants Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter, to “re-evaluate their algorithms that direct users to extremist content, and commit to redirecting people looking for extremist material.”

The United States is not present at the meeting nor are they planning on signing the pledge.

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Facebook has already acknowledged the Christchurch Call, announcing that it will be tightening rules on the use of its live streaming feature, which was used to broadcast the Christchurch shooting in March. With the new regulations, Facebook users would be unable to live stream events such as a mass shooting.

In the weeks since the Christchurch attack, New Zealand residents have voluntarily surrendered their weapons to police. However, the government is launching a buy-back program to collect the weapons that have not been surrendered, which is expected to cost around $100 million to $200 million in New Zealand currency — or $65 million to $130 million in U.S. dollars.