christchurch shootings

Every MP in New Zealand Backed the Post-Christchurch Gun Ban… Except One

Libertarian ACT Party's David Seymour was the only MP to vote against a restriction on military-style weapons.
12 April 2019, 12:36am
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
All images via Wikimedia Commons

New Zealand MPs have overwhelmingly backed a ban on military-style weapons, less than a month after 50 people were gunned down in mass shootings at a pair of mosques in Christchurch. The gun reform bill—which received bipartisan support yesterday, and now just needs the formal assent of the governor general before becoming law on Friday—will outlaw most automatic and semi-automatic firearms, as well as parts that convert guns into semi-automatics, the ABC reports. It passed the House of Representatives with 119 votes to one.

Speaking emotionally during the bill’s final reading, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she “could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death [as those used at Christchurch] could be obtained legally in this country." But the one lone MP who voted against change has questioned the government’s approach, and expressed some discontent with the way in which the new laws were rushed through Parliament.

The libertarian ACT Party's sole MP, David Seymour, was the single person who disagreed with the rollout of the new laws. In a piece published by Newshub yesterday, Seymour suggested that “By banning all semi-automatic weapons, the Prime Minister made legal owners of such weapons pay a cost for something they had not done.

“They are not bad people, and most accept the need for change,” he continued. “They could have been welcomed as part of the solution but legislating in nine days with scant regard for the usual process of public input and parliamentary scrutiny sent a message of contempt.”

Seymour went on to claim that “there's no reason to be confident the ban will make it harder for determined bad people to access dangerous weapons,” and that “Law-abiding gun owners are needed as allies in creating a safer country.”

Being the single opponent to an anti-gun bill that’s rolled out in the wake of a terrorist attack might make Seymour look like a conservative—but his political history suggests otherwise. In 2015 he drafted an End of Life Choice Bill that sought to legalise Assisted Dying in New Zealand, and that same year became a member of a cross-party group initiated by Jan Logie to look at and advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people.

The main things he takes issue with in this particular bill seem to be the accelerated process of debate and public submission, and the way in which law-abiding gun owners are being admonished for the actions of one man. Importantly, that one man exploited his access to military-grade weapons in order to kill 50 people. Nonetheless, Seymour suggests that “A proper process might have brought [law-abiding gun owners] around the table for a collaborative approach to the real goal of making us all safer.”

Ardern admitted that there had been some opposition and kickback from gun owners around the country, but said the response to the new legislation had been overwhelmingly positive, according to The Guardian. “You either believe that here in New Zealand these weapons have a place or you do not,” she declared. “If you believe, like us, that they do not, you should be able to believe we can move swiftly. An argument about process is an argument to do nothing.”

Ardern also took the chance to celebrate the near-complete unity that was being displayed in the government so soon after the Christchurch shootings.

“We are here just 26 days after the most devastating terrorist attacks created the darkest of days in New Zealand’s history,” she said. “We are here as an almost entirely united parliament. There have been very few occasions when I have seen parliament come together in this way and I cannot imagine circumstances where that is more necessary than it is now.”

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This article originally appeared on VICE AU.