There’s no excuse for the terrorism that killed 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, and there should be no reward for it. Yet politicians in both New Zealand and the United States are already rewarding the terrorism and punishing its victims.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern threatened New Zealanders’ civil liberties after these terrorist attacks. She said, “I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change.” She indulged a ban on semi-automatic firearms and complained that previous gun-control initiatives had failed and that the terrorist — an immigrant — lawfully possessed up to five guns. Accordingly, New Zealand’s Attorney General David Parker then suggested the government would indeed ban semi-automatic weapons.
Punishing law-abiding New Zealanders is a perverse response. It rewards this terrorist, in particular, by helping him achieve his political vision. The terrorist’s manifesto expressed his hope in escalating the gun-control debate. This would alienate moderates from their own government and it would empower future terrorists by reducing the likelihood that they’d encounter armed resistance.
Yet even in this attack scores of innocent New Zealanders were saved by a would-be armed civilian. The terrorist killed 41 people at the first mosque, where he encountered no armed resistance from worshipers or even from the police. He then drove himself three miles away — while shooting people in the street, still without any police intervention — and attacked a second mosque.
There, the terrorist met Abdul Aziz: a civilian who tried using one of the terrorist’s own guns against him. The gun was unloaded, but Mr. Aziz scared the terrorist away. Seven people were killed in that mosque. Mr. Aziz saved countless others.
Similarly, at the first mosque, an unarmed 50-year old man, Naeem Rashid, tried to tackle the terrorist. Rashid died a hero. But nobody at the first mosque had a gun. So the terrorist got away with it. He killed as many people as he wanted. Then he went outside to his car, switched guns, and re-entered the mosque to kill the wounded. Then he went outside again and killed some more people on the street in broad daylight. The police did not yet stop him. He was miles away from the crime scene before he even heard sirens.
Heroes like Abdul Aziz and Naeem Rashid deserve concealed-carry permits. They don’t deserve a government that responds to terrorism by attacking civil liberties. Gun ownership for defending oneself and others is a fundamental human right. Disarming law-abiding civilians leaves them vulnerable to killers who are undeterred by laws prohibiting murder: let alone by laws prohibiting firearms.
Embarrassingly, some American politicians piled on the victims. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (“AOC”) named three church shootings and said, “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” Snidely mocking the religious, AOC may as well have said the victims wouldn’t have gotten hurt if they weren’t so religious in the first place. It’s clear she spoke from ignorance instead of malice: obviously the purpose of prayer is to seek divine intercession, not physical protection (for which one needs a gun) and AOC prefaced her cruel comment with a sympathetic one: “Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore.”
Nonetheless, she defended her callous remark by saying “‘thoughts and prayers’ is [a] reference to the NRA’s phrase used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies,” and affirming her support for New Zealand’s Prime Minister.
What’s more, two of the three church attacks AOC cited were stopped by “good guys with a gun.” Armed police reached the Pittsburgh synagogue four minutes after a 911 dispatch. And an armed civilian — NRA instructor Stephen Willeford — used his AR-15 to stop the Sutherland Springs church shooter.
Terrorism is bad enough for killing innocents and intimidating people against exercising their civil rights or holding their cultural values. Terrorism is even worse when politicians exploit it to attack these very same rights and values. Instead, the proper response to terrorism is to unapologetically defend our rights and values and deny terrorists all their political and cultural goals.
Prime Minister Ardern was exactly right in her statement on the attack. “We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we’re an enclave for extremism: we were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things, because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those that share our values, a refuge for those who need it,” Ardern said. “Those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”
Lew Olowski is an attorney and formerly a clerk to Radovan Karadzic, president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Lew served under Peter Robinson, who is among the world’s premiere international criminal trial lawyers litigating war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. He is a graduate of Georgetown Law School.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.