Christchurch shootings killed more people than 6 years of New Zealand gun homicides combined: stats

WATCH ABOVE: New Zealand’s government is already talking about imposing stricter gun laws, in the wake of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch. Abigail Bimman takes a look at the impact of mass shootings on gun laws.

New Zealand‘s modern history has never borne witness to a mass shooting like the one that killed 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch this week.

And if you’re of a certain age in the South Pacific country, you won’t have witnessed any notable mass shootings there at all.

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The 50 people killed represented more than the 39 who were killed in gun homicides in the country in the six years between 2010 and 2015 combined, according to Gunpolicy.org, a research website that focuses on “armed violence, firearm law and control” that’s hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health.

Statistics drawn from various sources — including the New Zealand government — show that no year saw so many homicides by firearm in nearly three decades.

There were eight gun homicides in 2015, and seven in 2014.

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Indeed, from 1988 to 2015, there was only one year in which gun homicides totalled more than 20 — that was 1990, when there were 24.

Statistics gathered by the New Zealand Police provide additional perspective: they show that 69 total murders were committed with firearms in the decade between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2017.

Most of them happened in New Zealand’s Central police district, which includes cities such as Palmerston North and Whanganui.

The fewest were counted in the Auckland City district, encompassing New Zealand’s largest city.

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Indeed, the total number killed in the Christchurch shooting matches, approaches or even exceeds the total number of people who died by gun in numerous years between 2004 and 2015, according to Gunpolicy.org.

There were 55 gun deaths in 2015, 52 in 2014 and 59 in 2013.

But the Christchurch shootings killed more people by gun than the total number who died by firearm in 2004 (48) or 2011 (43).

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While it wasn’t the lowest, the rate of gun homicide per 100,000 population is traditionally small, compared to other OECD countries.

There were 0.18 gun homicides per 100,000 in 2015, ranking it close to countries such as Australia (0.12) and the Netherlands (0.18).

That was less than Canada, which had a rate of 0.45 per 100,000 in 2014, the United States, where it was 4.04 in 2015. and Mexico, where it was 6.34 in 2015.

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New Zealand is not, however, any stranger to mass shootings.

In 1997, Stephen Anderson — a man who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia — killed six people as they sat down for breakfast at a family lodge in the village of Raurimu, reported the NZ Herald.

Victims included Anderson’s father Neville and numerous others who had come to stay at the lodge.

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In 1994, seven members of the Bain family were killed in their home in South Dunedin, on the country’s southern coast.

David Bain, a surviving son of the family, was convicted of the murders the following year but was acquitted at a retrial and awarded almost NZ$1 million.

The year 1990 saw 13 children, women and men killed during a 24-hour rampage by licensed gunman David Gray in the village of Aramoana, near Dunedin, after he had been in a dispute with a neighbour.

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This incident led to gun laws being tightened — amendments passed in 1992 brought new restrictions on military-style semiautomatic (MSSA) weapons, requiring people to obtain licences in order to possess them, and permits to obtain them in the first place.

These rules were similar to the ones governing handguns.

A ban on such weapons was rejected at the time “in the face of opposition from user groups and the estimated cost of such a measure in terms of providing adequate compensation to current owners,” according to the U.S. Library of Congress.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pledged that the country’s gun laws will change in light of the Christchurch shootings.

New Zealand’s laws around guns haven’t changed much since the 1992 amendments, said Philip Alpers, founding director of GunPolicy.org.

The laws on the books state that “every civilian in possession of a firearm must hold a current firearm licence, renewable every 10 years.”

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There are numerous other requirements: you must be at least 16 years old to own a gun, and 18 years old to own an MSSA.

You have to pass a background check and undergo safety training in order to qualify for a gun licence.

You can own a firearm or ammunition without a licence if you’re “under the immediate supervision of a licence holder,” the Library of Congress adds.

It is now looking at banning semi-automatic weapons.

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New Zealand isn’t alone among countries that have revisited their gun laws in the wake of a mass shooting.

In 1996, Australia bore witness to to a mass shooting when Martin Bryant killed 35 people at the Port Arthur Historic Site in Tasmania.

Australia’s government subsequently set up a firearms registry, banned automatic and semi-automatic firearms, brought in new requirements for a licence and introduced a 28-day waiting period to buy a gun, as recounted by The Atlantic.

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Though the legislation was widely opposed at the time, it has been credited with helping to bring mass shootings down to zero since the Port Arthur massacre.

The gun homicide rate in Australia has fallen, too.

In 1996, Australia had a rate of 0.57 per 100,000 population. That fell to 0.18 in 2016.

— With files from Laura Hensley and Reuters

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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