How the New Zealand attacks reflect the greater geopolitical climate

A white nationalist group caused the death of 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promptly addressed the attacks on the two mosques that were carried out on March 15th. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Terrorist attacks have almost become a staple in the media in the past couple of decades. Many people see other countries and ideologies as the threat, citing international terrorism like 9/11. As humans, we are instinctually fearful of those that do not look like us or talk like us, so it almost seems to make sense that our fear belongs mainly to people from outside our borders. However, it now seems as though the greater threat is those with the same language, country, rights, and privileges as ourselves.

Perhaps this can be explained with the fact that most homicides are committed by friends or acquaintances. This really only applies to the United States, so how can domestic terrorism abroad be explained?

When people think of terrorism in other countries, they may think of attacks like those in Paris, Barcelona, or the Manchester bombing. Those all have one thing in common: radical Islamic terrorism. Radical Islamic terrorism isn’t at fault for the Christchurch attack; instead, it is another radical ideology, one that brews among the majority.

Far-right, alt-right, white nationalist, neo-Nazi, etc., are some of names given for this kind of ideology. What are they? Simply put, these are often extremely socially conservative groups of people in the majority race and religion who wage war with minority groups through propaganda, coercion, and physical violence. Often times they feel superior to others, and feel they must put down other groups to maintain their view of the social order. These groups tend to express hatred towards Jewish people, immigrants, and many non-Protestant religions.

The attack in Christchurch seems more familiar than other terrorist attacks abroad. Much like the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the attack in New Zealand was carried out by a person that had vehemently expressed their views against other religions and cultures.

New Zealand is sometimes credited as one of the least newsworthy countries. It does not have a constitutional protection for firearms, and it is much harder to acquire weapons there than it is in the United States. The last terrorist attack in New Zealand occurred in the 80s. All of these facts combined together explain why this attack is so remarkable.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was quick to respond to the attacks, and the government began working on new legislation almost as soon as the news broke. The country has a strong hunting tradition, and about one in every four citizens own a gun. There has been a very strong program in place to teach safety and background check the applicants, which makes the likelihood of an attack much less than in America. The attacker was from Australia, but he had gone through the process to legally acquire the weapons.

Despite New Zealand’s existing gun laws, they immediately introduced legislation to further the restrictions. One of the first new laws introduced is an almost complete ban on the sale and ownership of semiautomatic weapons.

In a small pool of respondents, 18 McNicholas students and staff, 10 said that they thought New Zealand’s response was appropriate, with five saying that the response did too much, and three saying that it did too little. Fourteen of the 18 said that they felt that the current administration in the United States is not doing enough regarding the issue of domestic attacks, and only 4 said that the response is adequate. Even though the survey size is small, the message is still clear: America is not pulling its weight in the global war against domestic terrorism.

One barrier to firearm regulation is the 2nd amendment. It is fairly certain that this part of the bill of Rights and Constitution will never be removed.

Sophomore Olivia Rohling said, “The U.S. can most definitely fix the issue of gun violence without infringing on the 2nd amendment. Just like the 21st amendment repealed the 18th amendment (prohibition), another amendment can repeal the 2nd. People would still be able to own certain firearms, but in my opinion, military style semi-automatic guns and assault rifles are absolutely unnecessary for anyone of the public to casually own. I think what people misunderstand when it comes to gun violence and laws to prevent it, is that no one wants to get rid of firearms as a whole. The goal is just to make it harder for people to obtain one. The idea is not to get rid of them, but instead make it harder for the wrong people to get ahold of one.”

Even during Donald Trump’s presidency, regulation, like the bump stock ban, has been signed into law. Numerous laws have been passed that seem like a more obvious infringement of the 2nd amendment, like the Firearms Act, which totally banned the sale of fully automatic weapons manufactured after a certain date. Compared to that, increased background checks, mandatory training, and mental health screening should seem like very passable laws. Even with very strict or very loose interpretation, the “well regulated” part of the 2nd amendment almost calls for this kind of security.

One criticism of the United States’ reaction to mass shootings is that all we do is send condolences without taking action. Senior Eileen Heekin said, “No they haven’t, I don’t like how they ‘mourn’ and ‘pray’ for the victims and then forget about it a week later with no policy change.”

One reason not much is accomplished in the way of firearms regulation is because of our campaigning structure. Politicians are tempted to lessen regulations or keep quiet about important issues because money is at stake. Sophomore Lauren Cox said, “The U.S. can definitely respond better to domestic attacks. Although ‘thoughts and prayers’ for the victims’ families are incredibly important, they will not fix any damage these attacks cause for the country. Because of the controversy of the second amendment, many politicians are not willing to address the gun violence issue, especially if they are being funded by the NRA. Denying the public safety of citizens for monetary gain is a disgrace to democracy.”

This problem goes much deeper than just gun regulation. It has permeated almost every politician from every party in one way or another. Organizations want lowered regulations, so they pay into campaigns or political action committees to sway elections in their favor. Once their candidate is elected, the only way to stay in power is to appease the organizations that helped achieve that position. Specifically on issues of weapons and mass shootings, Sophomore Olivia Rohling said, “Part of the answer is to elect politicians that care more about the decency of human beings rather than the decency of the 2nd amendment.”

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