It was entirely predictable, and now it has come to pass. In a fatuous, pointless, useless, sentimental gesture, the government of New Zealand is to tighten up the country’s gun laws. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday, “Our gun laws will change.” She amplified her remark: “This ultimately means that, within ten days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer. We have made a decision and, as a cabinet, we are united.”
This is not an act of policy, but only a publicity stunt. The New Zealand cabinet’s decision reminded me of a line from Beyond the Fringe, a popular satirical revue from the 1960s in which, at a time of crisis, a government minister announces: “We need to make a futile gesture at a moment like this.”
For the point is that if you ban guns, or at least make them harder to obtain, only the bad guys will possess them. Have you noticed: it is only the lawless people who act lawlessly? The great majority of us are law-abiding and quite without murderous intent – and so we don’t need to be told that it’s rather naughty to go out and shoot a few dozen people. No psychopath intent on mass murder will be deterred by a ban on guns. Or are we to suppose that a determined killer will sit down quietly and say to himself, “Oh dear – I was going to create a bloodbath this morning but now I can’t, because the government has banned firearms!”
I find it hard to believe that women and men – even women and men elected to parliament – can be as stupid as this. So I’m trying to burrow beneath the headlines, hoping to discover the real motivation for Jacinda Ardern’s futile announcement. I suspect it is because, deep down, she and her cabinet know damn well that toughening the gun laws won’t prevent mass killings. It never has done before and it never will do in the future. Rather, I suggest, this is how the minds of those women and men in government are working: “Look, we know very well that there are intractable problems in our society which are partly the result of mass immigration and what might, to some people, look like an alien culture and way of life establishing itself so prominently in our midst. This is the real issue which we need to confront and deal with. You must be joking! That’s far too difficult. But we must be seen to be doing something. So we’ll ban guns.”
So massacres like last week’s will happen again – and again on four continents.
To change the analogy: sweeping the muck under the carpet doesn’t get rid of the stink.