Could the USA follow New Zealand’s lead and reform its gun laws?

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media during a press conference at the Justice and Emergency Services precinct on March 28, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The...

New Zealand’s parliament has passed a bill to ban assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

 

New Zealand's parliament has voted almost unanimously to reform their current gun laws.

By 119 votes to one, New Zealand's politicians have overwhelmingly backed Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern's motion to bring in more gun controls.

New Zealand has now passed a law which will ban all assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

This vote was reactive following the recent tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand. Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant killed more than 50 people when he attacked a mosque in March.

New Zealand's parliament has acted promptly to reform their gun laws but mass shootings like this are regular occurrences in the United States of America.

Can the USA learn lessons from New Zealand and reform its own gun laws in the near future?

The Second Amendment

AR-15 style rifles and shotguns for sale at Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Va., USA on January 9, 2015.

In the United States, citizens' gun rights are enshrined in the constitution. The Second Amendment gives the right to bear arms and that has been upheld through generations.

This amendment has existed since the 18th century and is considered an important part of American tradition and history.

But given the alarming rate of gun-related crime in the United States, there have been growing calls to reform or abolish the Second Amendment.

However, in reality, this seems unlikely. The United States' political system is designed to make constitutional change exceedingly difficult.

To approve a change, an amendment proposal would need a supermajority in US Congress - two-thirds of all members present in both the House of Representative and the Senate.

Then, the proposal would need to be ratified by three-quarters of the legislative bodies representing the 50 states in America.

Currently, obtaining both a supermajority in Congress and state ratification for repealing the Second Amendment would be a near-impossible task.

NRA: a grip on Congress

Gun advocate James Singer (C) takes part in a counter-protest in response to protesters opposing the NRA's annual convention on Saturday, May 5, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Loren...

One major stumbling block for the gun control campaign is financial: the National Rifle Association has a strong grip on Congress thanks to their financial clout.

The NRA - also known as the gun lobby - spend heavily with large donations to ensure politicians share their political agenda.

According to AJC, the NRA paid $7,740,521 to John McCain and $3,303,355 to Marco Rubio: two well-known Republican senators.

LBC reports that Donald Trump received more than $20,000,000 during his successful presidential campaign, while the NRA's donations to Republican Congress candidates during the 2016 elections totalled more than $17,000,000.

Alaska representative Don Young is a Board Member for the NRA and there are countless other examples of how the organisation has embedded itself deep within the US political system.

The NRA's hold on both chambers makes it nearly impossible for Congress to pass through any gun control legislation with a supermajority.

Shift on the horizon?

FAIRFAX, VA - AUGUST 4:

But as times progress, perhaps the NRA's grip is loosening; a shift in attitudes towards gun ownership might be on the horizon.

According to an article by The Guardian, the NRA faces a battle as anti-gun groups rise up with growing popularity.

The NRA has long been considered the most powerful player in American politics when it comes to non-profit organisations but that could be challenged as its reputation is damaged with each mass shooting, allowing opposition groups to grow stronger.

But the NRA boasts more than five million members and they still have the financial clout to overpower rival groups - at least for the next few years.

Concluding remarks

While New Zealand was able to quickly pass through a reactive law to bring in gun controls, the United States will struggle to follow suit for several reasons.

Firstly, the process of constitutional amendment is too inflexible to allow for reactive changes.

Then, you have the issue of the NRA's leverage within American politics which should protect their agenda for the meantime.

But there is also a prevailing attitude that the 'right to bear arms' is a constitutional right and constitutional rights must not be interfered with.

This is something that is culturally hardwired into many Americans and even a mass shooting cannot shift this mentality in some people. 

The United States are heading in the right direction but it could be years, and probably even decades, before we see any drastic movement on this issue.

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