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New Zealand prime minister: 'I do not understand' US inaction on gun control

Jacinda Ardern made the statement after pointing to firearms bans in her country and neighboring Australia

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she can't understand why the United States hasn't imposed tougher gun laws in reaction to mass shootings.

What are the details?

New Zealand swiftly banned "military-style" semi-automatic weapons, "assault rifles," "high capacity magazines," and some other accessories following the March 15 Christchurch massacre that left 51 innocent people dead.

Ardern sat down with CNN's Christiane Amanpour for an interview Tuesday, where the host asked the prime minister about how she quickly "toughened up" New Zealand's gun laws following the attack.

"You know, even President Obama couldn't do that in the United States after the massacre of children at Sandy Hook, but you did. In a matter of 26 days, legislation was passed," Amanpour said.

"I think that speaks to the impact of the 15th of March on New Zealand," Ardern replied. "We did have permissive guns laws — we did — and, you know, there's of course, a very practical use for the guns that we do use and license in New Zealand. But there is actually a whole set of weapons that were just available, but unjustifiably so."

Ardern said her country had mulled gun control at times in the past, but after the Christchurch massacre, "the only answer was to do everything we could to prevent it ever happening again."

Amanpour then said, "I mean, just to remind, over 110 mass shootings in the United States since 1982 according to an investigative site, 15 school shootings alone this year. It's a really difficult topic to grapple. Now, I mean, I wonder if you ever think that other countries can learn from what you did and actually from what neighboring Australia did after their massacre in 1996 — a conservative government passed tough gun laws."

Nodding, Ardern responded, "And in both cases ... you know I have to acknowledge, New Zealand had pretty permissive gun legislation."

Amanpour stepped in to say, "Well actually, some of your people said, 'You know, we feed half the world, we're hunters.'"

"And we are," the prime minister responded, "We'll continue to be a food producing nation that deals with animal welfare issues and so on, and has a practical purpose and use for guns. But you can draw a line and say that that does not mean that you need access to military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles. You do not. And New Zealanders, by and large, absolutely agree with that position."

Adern added, "Australia experienced a massacre and changed their laws. New Zealand had its experience and changed its laws. To be honest with you, I do not understand the United States."

Jacinda Ardern on US gun laws: 'I do not understand the United States'

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