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OPINION: Gun-owning Chch Politician Responds

Opinion – John Stringer

Without wanting to add to some of the sentimental hyperbole surrounding the heartfelt love and support for our Christchurch muslims in Riccarton and Linwood, I feel a responsibility to respond to some of the emerging issues as a Christchurch local …Without wanting to add to some of the sentimental hyperbole surrounding the heartfelt love and support for our Christchurch muslims in Riccarton and Linwood, I feel a responsibility to respond to some of the emerging issues as a Christchurch local body representative. My sons flatted for several years right next to the Deans Ave mosque sharing that back fence over which several survivors scrambled during the shootings. I’ve visited the Deans Ave mosque myself several times and while living in Kuwait family members of mine visited the local mosque three times a week to learn Arabic. On 15/3 I was locked down with a class of international teenage students.

Back in 2016 I voiced concern over a Muslim Brotherhood cell operating in my area and took that to my local MP Gerry Brownlee and the police. “I have identified an Islamic activist group upsetting local Middle-Eastern people about Sharia Law and agitating for an Islamic State in place of our Council and wider Government.”

For more than five years I was in charge of security at ReStart Container Mall after the earthquakes and appreciate security and pubic safety issues. I‘m also a semi-automatic rifle owner myself. As a long-time hunter, outdoor fisherman, and security firm owner I support the Coalition government amendment to ban military grade automatic weapons.
The ban itself is a no-brainer. Other than for specialist users such as armed services, not many of us agree private citizens need hard-end military grade weapons. Two weeks ago we were rigorously debating whether we wanted our police armed. Are we now glad the two Lincoln officers on Deans Ave were armed? Their guns saved more lives.
Most weapons today are semi-automatic, like most of our cars. Single shot guns of the 1940s and 1950s are now antiques. We do need to appreciate the difference between “military grade” and ”semi automatic.”
Sexist Hyperbole
I do not support the demonisation of gun club members or rural people as somehow “part of the problem” or gun culture as “toxic masculinity” (which is sexist hyperbole). One presumes Maori haka; Japanese samurai; Gallipoli soldiers; the RSA and RSLs, are also expressions of “toxic masculinity”?
The finger-pointing at my ward constituent David Tipple from whom I bought my own rifle, as did Heather du-Plessis Allen, has been ugly and unfair. He’s a Papanui businessman in my community selling guns to New Zealanders who want them. He should be left alone.
Many of use learned safe shooting at school or scouts and it remains an Olympic sport for which NZ has won medals.
As we respond with compassion and support to the tragic mosque events, it’s important we don’t dismantle aspects of our own culture as a knee-jerk reaction; whether that be: Crusader iconography of 1000 years ago; the cancellation of popular events out of fear; the banning of billboards showing a NZ family learning to shoot safely; or the common use of guns in NZ’s premier out-doors region of Canterbury.
There is the irony of removing “Jesus Christ” from our democratic chamber “least that offend,” while having a full Muslim call to prayer from the very same chamber.

Racist Croissants?

In regard to removing the Crusader name and logo from our regional rugby team, will we be demanding our trade-partner Saudi Arabia also remove the jihadi sabre from their flag? Or ask for a historic apology from muslims for the millions killed in the name of Islam, or for the siege of Vienna? Is the croissant that resulted from that siege (a triumphant pastry lampoon of the muslim crescent) a racist icon also worth banning?

Colonial Cringe

There does appear to be an anti-white Western over-emphasis amid some of the week-old rhetoric following the shootings. Some of it may be derived from Down Under colonial-cringe and a desire to rapidly distance New Zealand from the acts –thus “Australian shooter” and “This Is Not Us” whereas Norway responded (and there is a famous book) following ‘Breivic’ with “One Of Us.” Norway’s reaction is perhaps better grounded. The singularisation of “white supremacist” is more convenient for getting collective New Zealand off the hook. The rush to pro-Islam sentiment may become more problematic in the future if there are more anti-West attacks now numbering hundreds of incidents by extremist jihadis.

If we’re going to hand-wring over the Crusades (perhaps 150,000 dead in total) will we be calling for violence to cease against Christians in Islamic countries, such as the 200 killed in Nigeria this same week (toll now 6000+). Or mention the historic 800 year genocide of the Hundu Kush (millions killed). Obviously we must oppose violence and genocide wherever it occurs; whether that be sectarian IRA violence in the UK; Muslim attacks on Westerners across the globe; or Black on Black street killings in Chicago. Gun killings are not generically racial or even religiously-specific; they cross the human divide (political; religious; nationalistic; cultural). I was appalled at the Pakistani gender-zealot academic on Kim Hill Saturday morning trying to justify gun-shootings as a “gender” issue.

There is an upside however, and that is the opportunity for immigrant communities (muslim and non-muslim who as immigrants to Aotearoa have fled violence and intolerance) already forming new relationships alongside mainstream New Zealand, severed from historic Middle-Eastern animosities and sectarianism. It’s a concept of ’New Zealand Muslims” and “New Zealand Jews” etc. associating openly and supportively as a new community under our nationhood. The challenge will be to reinforce that amidst future violent sectarianism when those old separations get re-emphasised elsewhere.

Just a few weeks ago I completed my own firearms license upgrade. It was rigorous, extensive and thorough involving lengthy interviews with family members and friends. I will not be surrendering my semi-automatic firearm, because we live in a free society.

Emotions are Raw

During this grieving process, emotions are raw. Winston Peters has been to Turkey to try and smooth diplomatic rhetoric about Gallipoli and our grandfathers’ invasion of that nation, and the safety of our people visiting there. Jordan Petersen books are removed by Whitcoulls. Any kind of critique or criticism of things Islamic is bullied as “hate speech.” Logical and understandable debates about cosmopolitan immigration are shut down as “racist” as an unrealistic utopian nirvana (“We Are the World”) is lifted up stripped of any complications of genuine difference (attitudes towards women, family, politics, culture, God and human rights).

In the same way some of us are fixated on the differences between “us” and an “Australian white supremacist” (who nevertheless lived here) as a means of conveniently segregating ourselves from any ownership of this horror, the rub is in negotiating the differences between us all as we build a peaceful New Zealand in the 2020s amid world turmoil caused by difference.

It will take much more than simplistic gun-law bans, sentimental “We Are One” rhetoric, dismantling rugby logos and “hate-speech” finger-pointing, egg-throwing eggs or wearing scarves to cement lasting peace and true amalgamation.

Ataturk & the BIble.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern turkey, and St Paul shared the same sentiment, which is perhaps a worthy focus for the future…

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Galations 3:28.

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