Mike's Minute: End of innocence - maybe our gun laws are hopelessly naive

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Thursday, 21 March 2019, 7:16AM


I can tell you, having done a few bits and pieces on international radio these past couple of days, that the world has genuinely been interested in what this country is facing.

But like most things in life if you follow the global headlines, you will have seen those headlines have diminished, moved down the page, the bulletin, or disappear altogether. It says nothing of the gravity or enormity of the Christchurch event. It is a simple reminder that the world turns, and life goes on.

The same way we didn't spend as much time on Manchester as Manchester did, or Norway, or Orlando, or any of the other American mass shootings.

Which is one of the more ironic things you feel when you're on American radio, as I was yesterday.

Knowing their relationship with guns, their amendments, their debates, their history, knowing all that and trying to explain what is it we do with guns, and what we are looking to change, feels like a mixture of innocence and simplicity.

We don't have people that carry guns for protection, this is news to them. I was asked about our relationship with the gun. I get what they meant, but we don't really have one. We don't cite amendments and our rights the way they do.

We say, 'well, we like to shoot deer, or get rid of rabbits on farms'. Then I heard myself explaining how we don't have a gun register, don't track ammunition, can pimp up our guns without trace. It all sounded so hopelessly naive, like what the hell have we been thinking?

But then I cite the numbers: yes we have a lot of guns, but we don't shoot people with them.

The great debate in America is the more guns are available, the more mass death goes on. Well that's not true here, we have one gun per three people, which is not as many as America. But if the equation was accurate you would have concluded we should have dealt with a lot more gun crime than we already do.

All of this is of course good. This tiny, little country at the bottom of the world is known in a very passing sort of way by many, not unlike our passing knowledge of Boston or Kansas City.

But I tell you what I also tell each interviewer, that the accused 28-year-old mosque gunman with no obvious income was travelling extensively to North Korea, Pakistan, Bosnia, Montenegro and Turkey, and yet wasn't on any radar. They react the same way I did - and in that I am fearful is the real key to this.

If I can see it, if the interviewers can see it, seems unusual if not alarming. Did we even have a radar on?

But mostly the interview ends with how impressed they are by the outpouring of love and support they have seen.

I tell them it's the advantage of a small and close-knit country. Big events literally stop it in its tracks. You know when you join others from the outside looking in, in conversation, you realise there is a lot to be proud of.

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