New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern responds to Texas school shooting

<span>Photograph: Reuters</span>
Photograph: Reuters

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern says her country’s swift change to gun laws after the 2019 mass shooting in Christchurch was a “pragmatic” response, where “we saw something that wasn’t right and we acted on it”.

The prime minister was speaking as her visit to the United States coincided with the mass killing of 19 children at a school in Uvalde, Texas.

Ardern appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which was filmed shortly after the Uvalde shooting. “When I watch from afar and see events such as this today, it’s not as a politician. I see them just as a mother,” an emotional Ardern said. “I’m so sorry for what has happened here.”

Colbert referred to the aftermath of the 15 March 2019 mosque shootings, where 51 people were killed by a white supremacist, saying: “Immediately thereafter the New Zealand parliament took action to remove guns from the streets.”

He asked: “Why New Zealand was able to do that, when we can’t so much as pass universal background checks … how did New Zealanders get that done?”

Ardern said New Zealanders are “a very pragmatic people”.

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“We saw something that wasn’t right and we acted on it, and I can only speak to that experience,” she said.

“When we saw something like that happen, everyone said never again, and so it was incumbent on us as politicians to respond to that.

“Now, we have legitimate needs for guns in our country, for things like pest control and to protect our biodiversity – but you don’t need a military-style semi-automatic to do that.”

In the wake of the 2019 shooting, New Zealand banned almost all semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles. The law change was passed near-unanimously, with a single dissenting vote. Speaking at the time, Ardern said: “I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could have been obtained legally in this country.”

Ardern told Colbert New Zealand’s current gun control situation was imperfect and there was still work to be done.