The Gatepost Editorial: We need great leaders

In the wake of the murder of 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took swift action and banned all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, such as the ones used during the shooting.

The shooter wrote and released a manifesto rampant with Islamophobic and white supremacist ideology. The shooting, which he livestreamed on Facebook, was viewed over 4,000 times. 

And so with a few clicks, the murder of 50 people was sensationalized and will be immortalized on the internet forever. 

Though it’s been over two decades since New Zealand last updated their national gun laws, it took one mass shooting and three days for Ardern to do so. It never should have taken 50 deaths to prompt change, but the swift response is admirable. 

 The government is even working to repossess the now-banned weapons and repay all citizens who turn them in. The government will be footing the $100 to $200 million cost. The country’s citizens have overwhelmingly supported this move. 

This seems to be the response across the globe when mass shootings occur – the government wastes no time in taking action to regulate the weapons that caused such devastation. But there is one glaring exception.

Our own country has been wrestling with a simple measure to pass universal background checks for gun purchases – something already supported by 90 percent of Americans, according to Gallup. 

Our country cannot even come to an agreement to prevent guns from being put into the hands of violent offenders or those with severe mental illnesses.

The government in New Zealand understands that no price is too great when it comes to protecting its citizens. 

Time after time, the U.S. finds itself mourning the deaths of its citizens following a mass shooting, yet in the last 20 years, there have been no major gun reforms to stem the tide of senseless violence. 

In 2017, more school-aged U.S. children were killed by firearms than on-duty police officers and active duty military stationed across the world, according to a 2019 study by Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine.

In cases of gun violence, our leadership would rather Tweet “thoughts and prayers” than enact meaningful legislation that would allow children to live long enough to see their high school graduation. 

The delicacy and poise with which Ardern and the entirety of the New Zealand government responded to the tragedy is notable in contrast with to our own nation’s leadership.

When Ardern met with survivors of the shooting, she donned a hijab to show support and respect. Further, she has offered to cover the cost of every funeral and provide financial support to all survivors. 

Following the Tree of Life shooting in the U.S., Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto urged President Donald Trump not to attend the city’s grieving ceremony – but he still did. What does it say about a president that his presence alone was so unwelcome at a time of pain and suffering? 

His presence was merely a painful reminder of the lax gun laws that allowed for a shooting like that to happen. 

A reminder of the bill that Trump reversed in 2017 – one that made it harder for mentally ill citizens to obtain gun licenses. 

A reminder of the fear-mongering tactics he so famously employs to galvanize the base that supports him so unflinchingly that he once claimed, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, OK, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” 

Presidents are more than policy pushers – great leaders can provide solace and understanding in the wake of tragedy. Great leaders use compassion to help the grieving and unite nations. 

The U.S. deserves a great leader. 

When our children are being gunned down in schools and our religious are murdered in their houses of worship, we need a great leader. 

We must actively fight back against hatred in all its forms and curb the availability of guns so where hatred exists, it has no violent outlet. 

But we must demand a true leader to guide the way, one who will display compassion and condemn violence as Ardern has done.

Let’s hope our nation votes for one in 2020. 

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