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On Friday, March 15th, a lone gunman opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 people and injuring 50 people. The day after the shooting, of the 50 injured people, 36 were in the hospital, and two were in critical condition.
The New Zealand attacks have come as a shock to many, but their occurrence is even more alarming given the extensive documentation that gun violence in New Zealand pales in comparison to in the United States. In America, every year, there are almost four times more homicides by firearm per million people than in the second-place country, Switzerland. New Zealand, on the other hand, has the second fewest homicides by firearm per million people of all “advanced countries” (as determined by the Human Development Index, which calculated these figures based on 2012 data).
Following the New Zealand mosque attacks, the perpetrator released a white nationalist manifesto making it clear that his intent was to kill Muslims in their places of worship. Many experts worry that this manifesto, which includes language strongly associated with bigoted, Internet-based groups and forums, could spur similarly-driven white nationalists to conduct mass acts of violence. The New Zealand attacks are actually an example of how one white nationalist manifesto can lead to future violence: the perpetrator cited the manifesto written by the man behind the 2011 Norway mass shooting, which killed 80 people.
In the New Zealand perpetrator’s manifesto, he points to President Donald Trump as, in the manifesto’s words, “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” In the wake of the attacks, many people have renewed their concerns about the Trump administration’s unwillingness to tackle the rise of white supremacist ideology in the United States and across the world. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), for example, immediately called on Trump to condemn the attack as a white supremacist hate crime and cited the rise of Islamophobic rhetoric and violence during and after the Trump president campaign.
Trump has deflected on making such a statement, instead claiming that “the fake news media” is using the attack to unfairly malign him. The voices condemning Trump’s influence on the white nationalist resurgence don’t just come from the media, though: Democratic senators including Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn.) denounced Trump for stoking violence with his incendiary language and never publicly condemning white nationalists. Shortly after Friday’s attacks, Trump actively brushed off the notion that white supremacy represents a global threat and said that the ideology only belongs to a small, troubled group of global individuals. However, there is statistical evidence that white supremacist violence is indeed on the rise.
Within New Zealand, response to the attack has been swift and strong. Jacinda Ardern, the country’s prime minister, has promised to roll out massive changes to firearm regulations within 10 days of the attack. TradeMe, a prominent online retailer in New Zealand, has halted the sale of all semi-automatic firearms and related equipment. The police investigation into the attacks is the largest the national police force has ever undertaken.
Gun violence outside America may often come as a shock, but the New Zealand attacks aren’t the only recent gun-driven act of violence in recent days. A gunman opened fire in a tram in Utrecht, Netherlands, on March 18th, killing three and injuring nine.