New Zealand Grapples with Mass Shooting

Posted by on Mar 28, 2019 in World

On March 15, fifty people were killed and another fifty wounded when a 28-year-old Australian shooter attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Here, btw takes a closer look at the tragedy.

What Happened?

At about 1:40 pm on March 15, the shooter, a white supremacist dressed in military gear, walked into the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch with an automatic weapon and opened fire, killing 42 men, women, and children in just two minutes. He then left the mosque, shot at people on the street, got another gun out of his car, and re-entered the building. He later traveled to the Linwood Islamic Center four miles away and opened fire again, this time killing seven people (another died later in the hospital). At about 3:30 pm, the shooter’s car crashed about 3 kilometers from where the attacks took place. Police believe he may have been traveling to his next target.

A Nation Responds

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern immediately met with family members and Muslim faith leaders. She refused to say the name of the shooter, stating that the names of the victims should be spoken and remembered instead. New Zealand is also taking immediate action to ensure that a tragedy like this one never happens again. It will hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the role that guns and social media played in the attack. It will also look at New Zealand’s intelligence agencies to determine if they have been spending too much time focused on perceived threats from Muslim extremists, rather than from nationalist and white supremacist groups.

Ardern and the New Zealand government have also received worldwide attention for its quick legislative response to the attack. Less than a week after the massacre took place, the government announced that it would begin pushing through new laws to ban semi-automatic, military-style assault weapons, such as those used by the shooter.

Free Speech vs. Safety

The killer filmed the shooting with a camera mounted on his helmet and live-streamed it to Facebook for seventeen minutes. Though Facebook eventually tried to remove the video, copies continued popping up on other social media platforms, prompting an international outcry. The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) is suing Facebook and YouTube for allowing the mass murder to be broadcast, saying that doing so encourages terrorism and erodes the dignity of human life.

The shooter, a white supremacist and gun enthusiast, also released a 74-page manifesto. New Zealand has responded by saying that anyone caught with the document on their computer could face up to ten years in prison (sending it to others could garner a fourteen-year sentence). The government argues that the manifesto is dangerous because it encourages acts of terrorism. But free speech advocates disagree, saying that banning the manifesto may have the unintended effect of making people want to read it more. They argue that the document should be openly available so that the world will be able to confront the hate that motivated such a deadly and terrible event.

What’s Next?

The Australian shooter has been charged with murder and will next appear in court on April 5. He has fired his lawyer and states that he will represent himself. Many worry that he will use the opportunity to voice his racist views on a worldwide stage.

What Do You Think? Do you agree that the New Zealand government did the right thing in banning the shooter’s manifesto? Why or why not?