Biden asks New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern for advice on gun control after mass shootings

US President Joe Biden has asked New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for “guidance” during their first face-to-face meeting in the White House.

US President Joe Biden has told New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that he wants her advice on gun control and extremist ideologies in the wake of the latest US mass shootings.

Biden welcomed Ardern, saying it was “good to see a not so old and good friend”, at the start of their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on Tuesday.

But the conversation soon turned to more serious matters, as Biden referred to the 2019 Christchurch slaying of 51 people in mass shootings targeting Muslims.

Ardern’s government moved quickly to tighten New Zealand’s gun laws and ban military-style rifles. A gun buyback was also instituted.

“We need your guidance,” Biden said, calling for a “global effort to counter violence and extremism online.”

“I want to work with you on that effort,” he said.

“Massive shooting after mass shooting. So much of it is preventable and the devastation is amazing.”

Ardern offered condolences over the latest mass shootings, saying that “our experience in this regard is our own, but if there is anything we can share that would be of any value we are here to share it.”

Ardern also touched on New Zealand’s gun reforms with late night talk show host Stephen Colbert last week.

“When we saw something like that happen, everyone said, ‘Never again’,” she said.

“And so then it was incumbent on us as politicians to respond to that.”
Biden, who visited the Texan town of Uvalde on Sunday to mourn the deaths of 19 children and two teachers slain by a gunman using an assault-style rifle, said there was an “awful lot of suffering” and that “much of it is preventable.”

Less than two weeks earlier, Biden had also visited the site in New York State of another mass shooting, this time targeting African-Americans.
Biden, who is under pressure to show the government is responding to the ever-growing toll, told reporters he would “meet with the Congress on guns, I promise you.” However, with Republicans almost uniformly opposed to new restrictions on gun ownership, it appears unlikely that Biden’s Democrats can make significant change.

In brief remarks at the start of the meeting, Biden emphasised that Wellington and Washington need to co-operate, especially in the Pacific but assured Ardern that “we are not there to dictate or anything like that”.

“I want to emphasise … working together, we are not coming to dictate or lay down the law. We have more work to do in those Pacific Islands,” Biden said.

Ardern said “we really welcome this opportunity”, and that she was looking forward to discussing her week’s worth of meetings. She also spoke about a Pacific connection. “You speak of your uncle’s service in the Pacific. My grandfather served in the Pacific and I think it speaks to the personal connection, but also the depth of our friendship. The relationship is two countries,” Ardern said.

Ardern’s US visit is primarily a trade mission, with five cities on the itinerary, but she said before her departure that she also hoped to address Pacific security issues.
“I can’t imagine a more important time for political engagement with the US,” she said.

Her trip comes after two deadly mass shootings that have shocked Americans – a racially motivated assault on a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighbourhood in Buffalo, New York and the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The President and Prime Minister will continue to advance the U.S.-New Zealand partnership and their shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, the White House said in a statement issued last week.

The two Leaders will also discuss strengthening co-operation to support the Pacific Islands region, and our work together on a range of issues, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, addressing the climate crisis, and countering terrorism and radicalisation to violence both off and online, it added.

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