It’s pretty clear to me that readers of my blog from United States outnumber all other countries by leaps and bounds, and because of that it’s important for me to say that I know what I am about to say might not fit too comfortably with those readers. I know my country of New Zealand and yours, are quite different. It is over twenty years now since I visited your country and I know how different what I saw then was from where I live. Even though we might look the same, or similar, I think it is fair to say that our culture and society is quite different. This post, which is basically about the use of guns, is not my attempt to sway your opinions on gun laws but rather I want to acknowledge that your environment is different to mine but clearly both have some issues to address in terms of guns.
In the past few days, New Zealand has been rocked by the news of the murder of two children, aged six and nine, (by their father) followed by the suicide of their father in Dunedin, one of New Zealand’s four largest cities. It was not a mass shooting. It is 24 years since we had a mass shooting in New Zealand (Aramoana, 1990).
The father shot dead the children in their beds, before turning on gun on himself. Those children come from a school now in mourning, and while I hate to say it, I suspect this type of incident happens every day in your country. In my country though, it is not common, thank God. The mother of the children, the man’s ex-wife, had run next door to get help. It’s hard to begin to imagine the hell she must be going through now.
The man apparently had a mental illness and was on medication for it. To his family’s knowledge he did not have a firearms licence, necessary in New Zealand to own a gun. It’s hard to imagine how he would have held a licence with a string of breach of protection orders in the past year. Questions that are all being asked now.
Personally I am very glad that it is not easy to obtain a gun in my country. I won’t pretend to be anything other than anti-guns, although as I said already I recognise that my society and yours are quite different. But I will always stand up for more control on gun ownership. I have no desire to live in a world where owning a gun is necessary, or even desirable.
I was 15 years old when my ex-boyfriend J loaded a rifle, gave it to me and told me to kill him. He didn’t want to live if I wouldn’t be his girlfriend. He owned a gun (he was 18 at the time) for hunting but I strongly believed both then and now that he should not have access to one. Why? He was too impulsive. I knew he could shoot himself, or me for that matter, without too much thought. The thought would come later, when it was too late. And that is the problem I have with guns. Act now, think and get the facts later.
I can still remember thinking how easily it would be to pull the trigger. By then J had been creating a lot of problem for me by stalking. Fear thankfully got the better of me, aside from the fact that I’m not the sort of person who could fire a bullet at anything, anyone. Harming anything is difficult for me. I just wouldn’t do it. Instead I dropped the gun and fled, running about three miles home. He followed me on his motorbike. Who knows where the gun was by then. I didn’t stop to ask.
In spite of the fact that I would have arrived home hot, sweaty and out of breath I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. My family was all home, it was Saturday night, and no one knew a thing. It was many years before I ever let that burden go by telling my family (when I wrote my book). The trauma of that night was something I carried with me from then on. I didn’t tell anyone because I thought it must be my fault. What’s more I had been told I must show Christian compassion to J, and frankly that seemed so unfair. It still seems unfair and totally wrong to me. I hate the thought of people being guilted into this Christian compassion.
That night was over 30 years ago now and, in spite of a lot of therapy, I still carry it with me when I see things like the Dunedin shooting reported.
It’s too easy to pull a trigger. From what that man had with him, he had apparently gone there to burn the house down. Who knows whether the shootings were part of the deal. Maybe it was simply too easy. I don’t know, and I guess no one will ever know.
I don’t want to get into a gun lobby debate but when this story hit me I needed to say that while I hate that those children have died, and I hate that their mother is now alone, I am very glad that guns are not common in New Zealand. Tragedies like this happen but not often. Thankfully. Frankly I wish it was harder still to get our hands on guns here. I simply don’t believe there is a need, although I accept that maybe your country is different.
“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.”
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner