Mosque attacks in New Zealand sparks gun debate

A girl walks to lay flowers on a wall at the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday. The recent terrorist attack has sparked new gun law debates across the New Zealand border in the U.S. Associated Press

By Madalyn Watson | Staff Writer

The terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, killed 50 people and left 50 other wounded. This event has sparked debates on gun laws around the world from New Zealand to the United States, including Baylor.

The attacks occurred during Jummah, the Friday prayer that Muslims hold around noon, which is the busiest time for mosques around the world.

Austin graduate student Aadil Sheikh said that the attack affected him because it targeted people of his faith, Islam.

“It doesn’t matter what religion you are. If you’re not safe in a place of worship, then where can you really go? Growing up the mosque was kind of, aside from my home, one of my places of solitude, one of my places of peace,” Sheikh said.

Sheikh said he believes thoughts and prayers are not enough, and that there should be efforts made to prevent an attack like it from happening again.

“There should be bipartisanship when it comes to approaching this issue, not, ‘Oh, let’s take away everyone’s guns,’ or, ‘Let’s give everybody guns.’ I think both sides of the aisle need to work together in order to come up with some kind of common sense gun laws,” Sheikh said.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, announced that their gun laws would change in response to the attack. It was the largest massacre in the country’s history since a man killed 13 people in a shooting rampage 30 years ago, according to an article on CNN.

“I do feel like that rapid that a rapid response from the governing body is necessary in order to maintain a specific order,” Sheikh said.

The Australian citizen who was charged with the mass shootings in New Zealand had five guns during the attack, including semi-automatic weapons and shotguns.

The gun debates occurring in New Zealand in response to the attacks resemble the current gun debates held in the United States.

Professor David Guinn, who teaches courses on constitutional law as well as civil liberties at the Baylor Law School, said that gun debates are extremely different in America in comparison to other countries like New Zealand.

“America is a very unique country in regards to guns and weapons. We have the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms,” Guinn said.

Guinn said that when tragedies like this weekend’s terrorist attacks occur in other countries, it reignites debates on gun restrictions in order to prevent attacks like them to occur in America.

“I think that can provoke a very interesting discussion about what sort of restrictions should we have on certain types of weapons, especially those that pose a danger to the community to the churches to the schools and the sweet little children in the schools,” Guinn said.

Prime Minister Ardern said they are still looking into how the gunman accessed the guns, whether legally or illegally, in a news conference in Wellington.

Killeen junior Sam Walker, the vice president of the Baylor College Republicans and an advocate for the second amendment, said that before New Zealand makes a decision on restricting firearms in their country, they should verify if the perpetrator obtained the firearms legally or illegally.

“If he did obtain them illegally, then they need to figure out how to stop that, and if he did obtain them legally, then I think they need to look into how they’re going to restrict the sale,” Walker said.

There have been several, recent mass shootings in America, such as one that killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 and the one that killed 58 concert goers in Las Vegas in 2017.

“We have our own problems with guns that we need to deal with here, and just kind of let them sort it out over there, however they see fit,” Walker said.

Bump stocks, firearm attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns, have been centered in American gun debates since the Trump administration banned them on Dec. 18 of last year.

Walker said that the ban on bump stocks was in response to their use in the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017.

“The gut reaction to that was all we need to are ban bump stocks, because that was, you know, the only way that he was able to kill all those people — because he had a bump stock. But as far as I’m aware, that’s the only violent crime that’s been committed with a bump stock,” Walker said.

Matt Bennett, an advocate for gun control from the centrist think tank Third Way, told Vice that bump stocks had never been used in a gun crime before the Vegas shootings.