New Zealand shooters back gun control after massacre

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Muslim girls weep during the National Remembrance Service at North Hagley Park in Christchurch on March 29, 2019. (AFP)
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A photo taken on March 20, 2019 shows armed police officers patroling at the burial ground where funerals for victims are set to take place in Christchurch, five days after the mass shooting attacks at two mosques that killed 50 Muslim worshippers in the city. (AFP)
Updated 01 April 2019

New Zealand shooters back gun control after massacre

  • Finalizing such legislation can often take months but Ardern says the matter is so urgent it will be done by April 11

WELLINGTON: New Zealand will crack down on firearms ownership this week after the Christchurch mosques massacre that claimed 50 lives — and the Kiwi gun lobby, for the most part, is okay with that.
In stark contrast to the United States, where even the most minor curbs on gun ownership meet ferocious opposition led by the National Rifle Association, New Zealand gun owners agree action is needed.
The March 15 rampage by a white supremacist gunman has been a shock to the collective system.
“We want to support our government in any changes to prevent a terrorist attack from happening in New Zealand again,” Nicole McKee, secretary of the Council of Licensed Firearm Owners said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government announced an immediate ban on military-style semi-automatic rifles (MSSAs) after the shooting and will put laws to parliament formalising its action on Tuesday.
Finalizing such legislation can often take months but Ardern says the matter is so urgent it will be done by April 11.
Further curbs — potentially including a gun register, tighter vetting and stricter gun storage rules — are set to be passed by the end of the year.
In a move that would be unthinkable in the United States, one of New Zealand’s largest gun retailers, Hunting & Fishing, voluntarily stopped selling MSSAs and halted online firearms sales.
“Such weapons of war have no place in our business — or our country,” chief executive Darren Jacobs said.
New Zealand has its own National Rifle Association, but since the shooting, it has been at pains to point out it is a small sporting organization, not a wealthy political lobby group like its American counterpart.
“Our members shoot with single-shot bolt action rifles at paper targets,” president Malcolm Dodson said.
Another office holder has told media the New Zealand NRA is considering changing its name to avoid any association with the American body.
On the surface, New Zealand and the United States share many historical similarities, but they have a fundamentally different attitude toward firearms.
Both are former British colonies that fought bitter wars against indigenous populations and forged an individualistic frontier mentality.
However, statistics highlight the difference.
In 2016, New Zealand, with a population of about 4.7 million, had nine firearms-related homicides.
In the United States, population approximately 327 million, there were 14,415, more than two hundred times the per capita rate as New Zealand.

There are approximately 393 million guns in private hands in the United States, or 1.2 for every person, whereas New Zealand has about 1.5 million, or 0.3 per person.
The New Zealand government believes there are 13,500 MSSAs in the country, while estimates put the number in the US at 15 million.
Philip Alperts, a gun policy researcher at the University of Sydney, said the crucial difference between New Zealand and the United States was the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.
Alperts, himself a Kiwi, said countries such as New Zealand viewed gun ownership as a privilege, while in America it was seen as an inalienable right.
“We have a population who, when they traveled to America would get off the plane and be absolutely horrified to see people walking around with a gun,” he said, adding that safety was at the center of New Zealand gun culture.
Journalist Dawn Picken covered scores of shooting deaths in the United States and once had bullets lodged in her bedroom when a random gunman opened fire on her apartment building in Spokane, Washington state.
She said she had found a different mindset since moving to New Zealand in 2011.
“It was quite refreshing as an American to come here and hear Kiwis who own guns say ‘I don’t think they should be easy to get and it’s not my right, they should check I’m not predisposed to violence or going to go off the rails,” she said.

However, like anywhere, New Zealand has a vocal fringe element.
“Tyrant Prime Minister Kills Sports Shooting,” screams the headline on one prominent pro-gun website.
But former police minister Judith Collins had a blunt message for the US NRA and any other gun lobbyists who tried to inject themselves into New Zealand’s gun control debate: “Bugger off.”
The difference in gun cultures has played out on social media since the Christchurch shooting.
When a right-wing US website tweeted that “armed government thugs” were carrying out door-to-door gun confiscations in New Zealand, dozens of Kiwis left mocking replies.
“I had a self-saucing dessert in my pantry,” said one. “The cops came for it in the dead of night — apparently we aren’t allowed semi-automatic trifles.”


Foreign students fret over being sent home after US visa rule

Updated 55 min 9 sec ago

Foreign students fret over being sent home after US visa rule

When the phone rang Tuesday morning, Raul Romero had barely slept.
The 21-year-old Venezuelan, on a scholarship at Ohio’s Kenyon College, had spent hours pondering his options after US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Monday that international students taking classes fully online for the fall semester would have to transfer to a school with in-person classes or leave the country.
A college employee called Romero to say he would not be immediately affected, but warned that a local outbreak of COVID-19 could force the school to suspend in-person classes during the year. If that happened, he may need to go home.
Romero is one of hundreds of thousands of international students in the United States on F-1 and M-1 visas faced with the prospect of having to leave the country mid-pandemic if their schools go fully online.
For some students, remote learning could mean attending classes in the middle of the night, dealing with spotty or no Internet access, losing funding contingent on teaching, or having to stop participating in research. Some are considering taking time off or leaving their programs entirely.
Reuters spoke with a dozen students who described feeling devastated and confused by the Trump administration’s announcement.
In a Venezuela beset by a deep economic crisis amid political strife, Romero said his mother and brother are living off their savings, sometimes struggle to find food and don’t have reliable Internet at home.
“To think about myself going back to that conflict, while continuing my classes in a completely unequal playing field with my classmates,” he said. “I don’t think it’s possible.”
And that’s if he could even get there. There are currently no flights between the United States and Venezuela.

WORKING REMOTELY WON’T WORK
At schools that have already announced the decision to conduct classes fully online, students were grappling with the announcement’s implications for their personal and professional lives. Blindsided universities scrambled to help them navigate the upheaval.
Lewis Picard, 24, an Australian second-year doctoral student in experimental physics at Harvard University, has been talking nonstop with his partner about the decision. They are on F-1 visas at different schools.
Harvard said Monday it plans to conduct courses online next year. After the ICE announcement, the university’s president, Larry Bacow, said Harvard was “deeply concerned” that it left international students “few options.”
Having to leave “would completely put a roadblock in my research,” Picard said. “There’s essentially no way that the work I am doing can be done remotely. We’ve already had this big pause on it with the pandemic, and we’ve just been able to start going back to lab.”
It could also mean he and his partner would be separated. “The worst-case scenario plan is we’d both have to go to our home countries,” he said.

’CAN’T TRANSFER IN JULY’
Aparna Gopalan, 25, a fourth-year anthropology PhD student at Harvard originally from India, said ICE’s suggestion that students transfer to in-person universities is not realistic just weeks before classes begin.
“That betrays a complete lack of understanding of how academia works,” she said. “You can’t transfer in July. That’s not what happens.”
Others were considering leaving their programs entirely if they cannot study in the United States, and taking their tuition dollars with them. International students often pay full freight, helping universities to fund scholarships, and injected nearly $45 billion into the US economy in 2018.
“It doesn’t make much sense to me to pay for an American education, if you’re not really receiving an American education,” said Olufemi Olurin, 25, of the Bahamas, who is earning an MBA at Eastern Kentucky University and wants to pursue a career in health care management.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking,” she said. “I’ve been building my life here. As an immigrant, even if you are as law-abiding as it gets, you still are always waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under you.”
Benjamin Bing, 22, from China, who was planning to study computer science at Carnegie Mellon in the fall, said he no longer feels welcome in the United States. He and his friends are exploring the possibility of finishing their studies in Europe.
“I feel like it’s kicking out everyone,” he said, of the United States. “We actually paid tuition to study here and we did not do anything wrong.”