My name is Hunter Rodrick and I am from Chappaqua, NY. I am a Business and Economics major and government minor in the class of 2021. Through the generosity of Ms. Francine Stone, I received funding for a travel enrichment grant. My project is entitled: Gun Culture in New Zealand following the Christchurch Mosque Shootings. I travelled in Dunedin and to Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to pray in solidarity at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch. My research analyzed the government reaction, public opinion, and economic impact surrounding the events and their subsequent legislation.
Last year, New Zealand elected to ban nearly all semi-automatic firearms and prohibited certain magazines and other gun components. The national government instituted a gun buyback program that to organize the removal of illegal firearms. I attended various local government meetings to determine how this would be carried out. City officials directed me to the Dunedin Police Department as they headed the buyback program. People were able to turn in their guns through buyback events at firearms dealers and shooting clubs. The police supervised these events at locations throughout the country. The program ended in December 2019, but a future program might be put in place to continue to remove remaining firearms. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden says it is a positive step for the country, nonetheless.
Several national surveys shed light on public opinion. One survey conducted by the Colmar Brunton agency found that the majority of New Zealanders support the government’s quick action to change gun laws. Their poll showed that 61% of respondents thought the changes made were “about right” whereas 14% thought they went too far. I met some friends in the university’s hunting and spearfishing club, many of whom owned guns and even a few who worked at firearms distributors. Everyone agreed the previous laws could be improved, but especially as gun owners, many felt the firearms prohibitions went beyond what was needed to improve law failures that resulted in the Christchurch attack. This included the firearms license application which requires sponsorship by two NZ residents. A common concern was that the police vetting of sponsors is simply not thorough enough.
I visited over a dozen firearms distributors to analyze the economic effects on businesses. In each city, there were two large, chain retailers and usually just a few family owned shops. Sales for all businesses went slightly up in the first few months after the law changes because many people bought new guns with the money paid out in the buyback. One of the larger distributors and a few of the smaller stores previously carried a significant inventory of the now prohibited guns. The large store was able to convert its profits, but some smaller store owners thought they would be hurt in the long-run by losing their niche. For the whole industry, retailers either told me they expected only a slight downturn or no change in business in the future. I expected hunting guide services to lose business, but most of the guides I spoke with said their business was largely unaffected because semi-automatic firearms were not always used for their hunting.
This project was an incredibly enriching experience. It allowed me to actively utilize all my fields of study. I was able to develop my communication skills by learning to more effectively ask questions. I discovered that in any investigative or analytical experience, being adaptable is a positive attribute. Maintaining flexibility helped progress my research when I needed to find better information. I am excited to use these new skills in my future learning as I intend to pursue a senior-year thesis on macroeconomic theory.