MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
How does a community heal after an unspeakable act of violence? That question is being asked in El Paso, it's being asked in Dayton, and it's a question the people of Christchurch, New Zealand, have asked after a massacre at two mosques killed 51 people there exactly five months ago today. We wanted to hear how the people of Christchurch are doing now and how some of the changes made in the wake of their mass shootings are playing out.
Belinda McCammon from Radio New Zealand joins us from Christchurch. Hi, Belinda.
BELINDA MCCAMMON: Hello.
KELLY: It's a hard question to generalize about, I know, but how are people in Christchurch doing? To what extent does this past March still hang over life there?
MCCAMMON: Oh, it hangs completely. You know, I think the best way to describe it is that people are still really trying to find the new normal. Christchurch Cantabrians have already come through a significant changing event for the area in the past 10 years. There was the Canterbury earthquakes in 2011. The city really was just getting on its feet.
And of course, the mosque shootings happened and - unlike anything that has happened in New Zealand, at all. And Christchurch once again is faced with an unprecedented event. When reports came in of the horrific El Paso shooting, and a news report started coming through that the alleged shooter there had a manifesto that referred to the Christchurch shooting...
MCCAMMON: I mean, you know, the heart sinks. It really does.
KELLY: I wanted to ask you about the - some of the changes that have been made since March. The Parliament in New Zealand voted overwhelmingly to ban most semi-automatic weapons after those attacks. Is there still controversy surrounding that today or does it feel settled?
MCCAMMON: It feels pretty settled. I mean, in the past week or so, we've had one gun lobby speak up about some of the procedures of how the process of the gun buyback scheme is being handled.
KELLY: This is a pro-gun rights organization, or...
MCCAMMON: Yeah, it is. And to be clear, though, we do not have a gun lobby in New Zealand like you do in America. We do not have the influence of an NRA kind of lobby. And also, we don't have the money in the lobby industry that you do in America. So the gun lobbies and New Zealand are like the Deerstalkers' Association, you know, outdoor clubs.
MCCAMMON: Hunting and rifle associations. You know, they are - they're protecting the very narrow interests of their members, who for the whole part are, you know, law-abiding citizens who enjoy mainly recreational activities with their guns. We...
KELLY: And I saw that just as of this past weekend, as of last Sunday, more than 10,000 guns that have now been banned have been handed over to police.
MCCAMMON: That's right. So the events that are happening are sort of in main areas throughout the country, mainly in stadiums or race courses, so that police can control the flow of people coming in and out. But they've also had people turning up at police stations throughout the country, just voluntarily handing in guns as well.
The shootings in Christchurch were so shocking to New Zealanders that people have responded by saying, you know, do we need these guns? And most people have said, I'm not necessarily happy having to give up a gun that I am a law-abiding citizen having, but why do I need it? And given how horrific the event was, people are accepting of what the government has decided.
KELLY: You mentioned, Belinda, the reaction there in New Zealand to news of one of our very recent shootings, the one in El Paso, Texas. How closely do people there follow news from here in the U.S. as shooting after shooting plays out here?
MCCAMMON: The shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso got a lot of coverage here. But I think also there seems to have been in the last of several years in America, in the debate around gun culture and the problems in America with it, about just the seeming inability to get some kind of consensus about what should be done. It seems to, I think, New Zealanders that something needs to be done in America. But the fact that Americans cannot - the politicians cannot seem to actually get anything done is quite incredible to us.
KELLY: That's Belinda McCammon. She is the South Island bureau chief in Christchurch for Radio New Zealand.
MCCAMMON: Thank you.
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