New Zealand prime minister ‘does not understand’ why U.S. has failed to toughen gun laws

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she does “not understand” why the United States has not passed stronger gun laws in the aftermath of mass shooting events.

Ahead of a summit on online extremism, Ardern was responding to a question asking whether countries can learn from New Zealand.

Ardern announced a ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines only days after the March 15 mass shootings on two mosques in Christchurch that claimed 51 lives.

The prime minister said guns have a “practical purpose” in New Zealand but “that does not mean you need access to military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles.”

“Australia experienced a massacre and changed their laws. New Zealand had its experience and changed its laws. To be honest, I do not understand the United States,” she said.

She then spearheaded a call for the world’s biggest internet platforms to remove extremist content online after a livestream of the suspected gunman’s attack was shared on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Ardern said at the time that tech companies could do a great deal more to tackle the spread of violent content.

The summit in Paris begins Wednesday and was organized by Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron.

It will see world leaders and tech executives sign a pledge called the “Christchurch Call,” which aims to end the use of social media for acts of terrorism.

Ardern said Tuesday that the meeting “is not about regulation, it is about bringing companies to the table,” adding Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given “Facebook’s support to this call to action.”

The focus will “very much be on violent extremism,” she said.

The pledge will not limit or curtail “the freedom of expression.”

Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the Christchurch attacks in the first 24 hours after the massacre. It also blocked 1.2 million of them at upload, meaning they would not have been seen by users.

“When it came to the way this attack was specifically designed to be broadcast and to go viral, (responding) to that needed a global solution, so that was why we immediately got in contact with international counterparts,” Ardern said.

Representatives from Twitter and Google will be attending the meeting. Zuckerberg, who was in France to meet Macron last week, will not be attending.

Facebook said Nick Clegg, the former U.K. deputy prime minister and currently Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications, would attend the meeting, Reuters reported.

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