Living in New Zealand: Gun Control

Most people know that the American government isn’t the most popular one in the world.  I knew this when I lived in the US, but it didn’t truly hit home until I moved overseas.  It seemed as if, all of a sudden, complete strangers would start to ask me questions about US policy and why our government does things the way that it does.  People would ask me how I managed to work in healthcare with the constant worry of being sued hanging over my head.  Or what is it like to live somewhere where anyone can own a gun?  Was I constantly afraid of being shot?

I wouldn’t call it anti-Americanism.  I don’t believe in any way, shape, or form that the majority of Kiwis “have it in” for Americans or resent their presence here.  It’s more the impression that they don’t agree with US policies, laws, or understand how a society can be so destructive.  Wars.  Murder.  The prolific amount of guns and how easily they’re available.  And yes, I do think that guns in the US are very easily available, especially after I heard what’s involved to get a handgun in New Zealand.  I believe that owning a firearm in NZ requires police interviews of 2 referees and yourself, a police inspection of your home to insure safe storage, attending a safety lecture, passing a written test and, depending on the type of gun you’re wanting to register or purchase, an endorsement from a club or employer, and basically a shining halo hanging over your head.  Or something like that.

Obviously this post is written in response to the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado.  I never thought so much about gun control in America until I was no longer living in America.  Anymore, America’s “gun control” laws seem absolutely ridiculous to me.  I think about the number of shooting victims that I cared for when I worked in the States.  Even then, I still didn’t think about gun control as much as I do now.

I understand that the “right to bear arms” is basically ingrained in some people’s psyche.  People talk about it being a part of America’s foundation.  I wonder whether or not the founding fathers knew that, hundreds of years later, their words would be used to continue to support policies that allow 24 year olds to legally own handguns, a shotgun, and an assault rifle… weapons which were then used to murder 12 people and injure many more.  He was legally within his rights to own all of those weapons.  And that just boggles my mind.

I recently read an article where the author, Cindy Handler, questioned how US society could have laws that allow a “nut” to carry that number of guns.  Her answer: it’s because “a small group of paranoid individuals feel that if they aren’t permitted to carry a weapon at all times anywhere, they’re in grave danger”.  She asked an interesting question: why don’t more people take advantage of the laws that gun lobbyists support, laws that give people the right to bear arms and protect themselves at all times?  Why weren’t some of those gun advocates there, sitting in that theater, with their gun pointed at the exits just in case some lunatic came in with a mind to shoot everyone?  Which, unfortunately, is exactly what happened.

Her response: because we’re all too busy living our lives.  Very few people actually walk around in a state of high alert every second of every day, weapon at the ready or very nearly at the ready.  And yet those laws that allow us to have weapons on our person at all times to defend ourselves are the same laws that allow people like the Aurora shooter to walk into a crowded theater and kill a dozen people and injure over 4 times that amount.

It’s crazy.  Who knows.  Maybe when we move back to the US I’ll jump off the deep end and get involved in some sort of anti-NRA group.  Doubtful, but I can understand the inclination.

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13 comments

  1. Jason Collins says:

    The reason why:

    In the 1940s, Franklin D Roosevelt, a so called “liberal” president extradited majority of Japanese Americans in jail, some people died of depression, some people died of malnutrition, others lost their homes and objects because they were forced to sell their belongings at a quick pace.

    During the 1940s, Martin Luther King applied for a conceal carry permit weapon. The Alabama state police department denied him, because they were a racist organization and believed in gun control. The Deacons were group of American Americans who protected their neighborhood, when the southern states were not, and allowed the KKK to pour into their neighborhood without any protection.

    Today, we have the American government spying on citizens, arresting them without warrant, checking their emails, indefinite detention, battery, water boarding, torture, Also, the US purchased 1.5 Billion rounds of ammunition, and sent predator drones in over 8 countries to bomb them, killing over 10,000 children. However no one cares If they are brown or Muslim. All in the name of protecting people from terrorism, hiding behind the fact of oil imperialism.

    This will always be a civil rights, issue, and don’t things fool you.

  2. Jenny @ Practically Perfect... says:

    But unlike New Zealand, the US does not put 24 year olds or anyone else through the same rigorous level of checks, training, and evaluations that they do in New Zealand. I suspect that if they did, very few people would clear the necessary requirements, which is the case over here.

  3. JB says:

    You mention “24 year olds” like it’s a really young age. Yet, our U.S. soldiers enter the military at 18 and the average age is 21. Also, the average age of the revolutionary soldier was 24. Like New Zealand, anyone should be allowed to own a gun with the proper safety training and mental evaluation.

  4. Outback Vigilante says:

    I’m a dual citizen with the U.S. and New Zealand. For the past 20 years I lived half of it in N.Z., and the other half in the U.S. Makes me wonder why any Mother in the U.S. would need to own 3 assault weapons. I guess peoples sense of security has dwindled in America.

  5. Natasha says:

    Found this after searching for news on the Connecticut killings today. It’s an excellent article, I think you should repost it. I’m a born and bred kiwi and the gun laws in the US and attitudes towards them are completely baffling to me. This article offered great perspective.

  6. Doug says:

    Interesting the level of knowledge about the ‘gun’ laws in the USA – there are over 20,000 laws there. One law allowed the proprietor of the theatre in Aurora to make the place ‘gun-free’ in disallowing those who have carry permits to have their protective equipment with them. It was therefore rendered impossible for “some of those gun advocates there, sitting in that theater, with their gun pointed at the exits just in case some lunatic came in with a mind to shoot everyone”. The common theme of mass shootings in the USA is that the horrible incidents are generally pre-planned to take place in ‘gun-free’ zones where everyone (except the criminal) is prevented from resisiting or doing anything about stopping the slaughter.
    The mass shooters are criminals who choose to ignore laws about murder – why would we expect them to obey any ‘gun’ laws?

    Gun Control and ‘anti-NRA’ organisations merely ensure that groups of people sit around unable to do anything except wait for the Police to arrive – too late to protect them from criminals. Thus the gun-shy are as much to blame for the slaughter by enabling it to continue as the criminal who undertakes the horror.

    and Tammy – As for ‘a military grade gun that is no use for hunting such as an automatic’ – you have been listening to anti-gun hoplophobic rhetoric the firearms concerned are neither ‘military grade’ nor ‘automatic’ they are civilian produced more modern firearms which fire only semi-automatically with one shot for each pull of the trigger – not ‘automatically’ with many shots per trigger pull as real military firearms do. The military would not and do not use civilian semi-automatics which are NOT ‘military grade’ !

    In New Zealand those of us who have semi-automatic ‘military style’ firearms are vetted to a high standard and use them for exactly the same purposes as hunting and competition purposes as those who use the older, obsolete bolt action rifles (many of which are actually old surplus WWi and WWII real ‘military grade’ firearms – BTW).

    Doug

  7. Laura says:

    Not to mention, when it was written so long ago and most 24 year olds were going to combat not using such handguns in such a manner to shoot innocent people.

    It’s scary really, when it’s put into perspective what we Americans are living in.

  8. travel blogs says:

    Well if everyone treated each other how they themselves wanted to be treated we’d have no need for gun laws let alone guns, but hey that’s the idealist point of view but one can dream :).

  9. Tammy says:

    I love this post. I’m an american, lived there till I was 25 and have been here for 15 years. My family comes from TX and are FIRM believers in there right to bare arms and so was I till I came to NZ and realized that it didn’t have to be like that. It saddens me that everyday people get so bitter and twisted when you mention gun ‘control’. They seem to hear ‘we’re taking away your guns’ instead of ‘we want to make it safe for everyone, especially the children’. I now honestly believe that not everyone should have the RIGHT to bare arms it should be a privilege and not one granted to the mentally unstable, the untrained, uneducated (with reference to guns and safe handling of) . I also can not understand why anyone needs to own a military grade gun that is no use for hunting such as an automatic. I believe that the fore fathers wanted future generations to be able to protect themselves but I don’t believe they ever intended there words to be so twisted. How many more mass shootings need to occur before people stop shouting ‘no gun control’ and start demanding reasonable checks, training, restrictions?

  10. Rebecca says:

    It’s very interesting being overseas when something like this happens. I was living in New Zealand when the Virginia Tech incident happened back in 2007 and it was really weird to watch it all from the other side.

  11. Rachel says:

    I love the perspective of an expat! 🙂 I definitely agree that perhaps stricter gun control could have stopped the recent incident in Colorado; additionally, it would likely help to curb the insane amount of random/everyday gun violence. Ugh. 🙁

  12. Melissa says:

    Oh wow. This very issue has been keeping me up at night since Friday. I’m in a similar {kind of} position. I lived in the states for 6 years, married an American and our son was born there. The gun policies are very seriously one of the reasons we moved back to NZ.
    The best article I have read so far on the issue was written by Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) http://www.twitlonger.com/show/if2nht it’s so worth 5 min of anyone’s time!

  13. Cristin says:

    Could not agree with you more, and I’ve been thinking about writing a similar post about Australian gun laws. The laws here changed drastically after a mass shooting in (I think) the 90s. The government did a huge buy-back and now guns – aside from machine guns, automatic rifles and the like – are legal, but highly regulated. Only 5% of the population has them and I have to believe that it cuts down on senseless crime like we have in the States dramatically. So sad to know that tragedies keep happening in the U.S. and nothing changes.

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