Quick reaction in New Zealand: ‘Our gun laws will change’

Native American leaders send messages of support to island nation

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Arden said the country’s gun laws will change after the mass shootings at two mosques.

“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” she said in The Guardian. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

The gunman, who the New York Times described as a “white nationalist extremist’” live-streamed his two attacks on Facebook, killing 49 during midday prayers on Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand. An additional 48 people are wounded.

In Washington, President Donald J. Trump said that he does not think white nationalism is a problem. “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet, he said, but it’s certainly a terrible thing."

Maori Television said a website has been created to look for people who are still missing after the attack.

A recent column in The Spinoff said social media is not a safe place for Indigenous people. For us, a culture steeped in oral tradition, words matter,” wrote Laura O'Connell Rapira. “That’s why it broke my heart to learn that on average, Māori who are active on Facebook will encounter nearly five times as many different racist ways of thinking for each kind comment. Comments like ‘Maybe we should roast her on the spit… Bet she tastes like a Koni Koni with that pinky flesh! Mmmm bacon!’ hurled at Māori musician and social commentator Lizzie Marvelly is a prime example.”

New Zealand is home to approximately 744,800 Māori as of June 2018.

The Prime Minister said the attack happened “because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those that share our values, a refuge for those who need it. And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”

The Māori community quickly stood with the Islamic people in New Zealand and denounce hate. The 28-year-old who was arrested and charged with murder had written a lengthy hateful diatribe, according to news reports. Two other suspects were taken into custody.

“It is clear now that this can only be described as a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Arden said at a press conference. “These are people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand.”

Global leaders, actors, politicians responded to the incident via social media, including Indigenous filmmaker Taika Waititi, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, who is from Wellington, New Zealand.

“My heart is broken. My country is weeping and so am I. I am dying knowing that this kind of hatred can happen in my homeland. All my love goes out to Christchurch, the victims, the families, the Muslim community, and all who have chosen our islands as their home. This is not us.” 

Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians released a statement this afternoon.

“Last night’s horrific events in Christchurch, New Zealand have left me brokenhearted. We send our deepest condolences to the victims, their families, and all those affected by these terrible acts. No one should feel unsafe in a place of prayer, and we will keep our Muslim friends in our thoughts,” he said. “NCAI condemns all forms of hatred and racism, and the poisonous rhetoric that fueled this attack. We must all stand together, united in peace and love, to overcome these tragedies and ensure they don’t happen again. Indifference and inaction are not options.”

Associate Dean and Professor Bronwyn Hayward of the University of Canterbury caught a group of students from Tuahiwi School on video performing the Haka.

She thanked the world for sending their love and the students’ Haka for the climate change strike “represents Christchurch & #nzpol & reminds us of what we love & value.”

Representatives Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, and Tom Cole, Chickasaw, also sent their condolences to New Zealand, as well as Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth. 

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com

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