In the Wake of a Tragedy: Jacinda Ardern is a True Leader

Raeesa Ashique - 4B Electrical
Posted on: March 25, 2019

Instead of writing an update on Donald Trump, let’s turn our attention to a more admirable figure. A woman who I can legitimately call a world leader, without disrespecting the term.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was somewhat of a celebrity before the events of last week. She was featured on the cover of Vogue, she appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”, and she was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people.

While she had already been viewed as a progressive leader, along with Canada’s Justin Trudeau and France’s Emmanuel Macron, her status has elevated since the mosque attacks in Christchurch. Her response, both with words and with actions, has been admirable.

She quickly labelled the attacks as “terrorism”. This is rare, as that term is generally used when Muslims are the perpetrators, not the victims. A white terrorist is more often referred to as “a lone wolf” or “mentally unstable”.

She also avoided rhetoric of hate or violence or war. Since 9/11, leaders have treated terrorist acts as declarations of war, and responded accordingly. Ardern acknowledged that the root cause is far-right ideology; she did not focus on the terrorist, which would give him notoriety.

The day after the attacks, she visited Christchurch, reaching out to the community with empathy and compassion. She gave her condolences while wearing a headscarf, also pledging to cover the funeral costs of all fifty victims and offering financial support to families who lost someone on whom they were financially dependent.

These acts of emotional and financial support are admirable, especially in contract with the negative rhetoric and racism often heard in the United States. However, even more impressive is the way she swiftly introduced policy. A true leader not only speaks, but also acts.

Gun control

At a news conference following the shootings, Ardern said: “The mere fact… that this individual had acquired a gun licence and acquired weapons of that range, then obviously I think people will be seeking change, and I’m committing to that.” Attacker Brenton Tarrant had a gun licence, which he obtained in November 2017, and owned five guns.

On Thursday, March 22, less than one week after the attacks occurred, the government banned military-style semi-automatic weapons and began to rewrite gun laws. The ban also covers any parts or accessories that can convert less powerful firearms into military-style weapons, and high-capacity magazines.

“In short, every semiautomatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country.” These same weapons were used in mass-casualty shootings in the US, including Orlando, Las Vegas, and Parkland, Florida.

Mark Mitchell, who was a defense minister in the previous government and who supports the new policy, said, “There is a general recognition that we don’t need these military-style weapons in New Zealand, so it’s very easy to win cross-party support.”

Ardern mentioned that a program will be initiated to take existing weapons out of circulation; gun owners who do not comply will be fined.

Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted: “This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like.”

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