Be A Voice: What the world can learn from Jacinda Ardern’s response to the Christchurch shooting

By Campaign Agent Eleanor Longman-Rood

Christchurch is usually known for its beautiful parks and multiculturalism. Yet, the recent shooting, which claimed the lives of 50 innocent citizens, has left the city in high alert and in a state of mourning. The country has united in their grief against this terror, expressing in one voice that “this is not New Zealand”. Representing them is someone who showed the world how a nation effectively responds to an act of terrorism. Jacinda Ardern proved she was not only a Prime Minister, but a leader that the world should pay attention to.

Attacks like these vary in what they hope to achieve. However, one thing always remains the same; notoriety. In a speech to Parliament, Ardern announced that she would never grant the shooter this. She spoke eloquently and firmly on how you will never hear her say his name. This man does not deserve our attention, instead she explained to Parliament how our headlines should hold the names of the victims. Perhaps this is where western media has been going wrong, as every time an attack occurs newspapers print the attacker’s name over and over again, while the names of the victims are hidden in the body of the article. 

The addresses Ardern has given since the attack have been shared across social media as some of the best that a leader has given in a time of crisis. New Zealand was not to be defined as a nation where terror attacks are normalised. Instead, she spoke of how New Zealand was a country where a 95 year old man will take 4 busses to attend a rally against racism because he was so haunted by the shooting. New Zealand was a country where the police officers who responded to the emergency calls threw open the car door of the armed shooter without a moments hesitation. She stressed to a nation in mourning that this was their country and it was not to be characterised by the abhorrent attacks in Christchurch. 

Ardern has wasted no time getting the weapons used by the shooter criminalised. She declared that the 15th March was a day that changed the nation; it is only logical that this is now reflected in their legislation. Every semi automatic weapon used in the attack has now been reclassified as “miltary-style” with the intention of the law banning the guns to be passed on April 11th. This relies on lawmakers voting to amend the Arms Act of 1983, which commentators believe is looking likely. Essentially, she has achieved, within just under a month, what lobbyists in the US have been trying to achieve for decades. Obviously, it is important to not forget the differences between the two nations here. New Zealand does not have the same political culture surrounding guns that the US does, nor does it have the same federal system that makes the monumental change of higher gun control highly complex. Nonetheless, her accomplishments after the shooting should not be neglected by global politics. 

Once the dust settles after a shooting like this the real questions start. How did this happen? How can we prevent this from happening again? Why would anyone do this? What is less often asked is, how should our leaders respond to this? An answer that Jacinda Ardern has given in the form of a masterclass in the weeks following the shooting. Her actions since the attack have been nothing short of extraordinary. She has mourned with communities respectfully and firmly taken steps to protect her country from future attacks. Personally, I have never been fond of the phrase “we get the leaders we deserve” in politics. It shifts accountably from those in office, to voters. However, in contemporary politics, for New Zealand this now appears to be one of the highest compliments that you can give.  

Image: NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation @flickr