The so-called manifesto allegedly penned by the terrorist behind the mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, explained the hope that the killing spree would add fuel to the fire of America’s ongoing debate over gun control.
At least 49 people were killed in the attacks on two mosques, which took place on Friday morning. The Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch—the country’s third biggest city—were the targets.
One man in his late 20s was charged with murder, while at least two others were arrested. It is not clear who was responsible for which attacks. The man charged, who has Australian citizenship, was described by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an “extremist, right-wing” terrorist.
The attack on the Al Noor Mosque was live-streamed on Facebook and showed the gunman’s weaponry—decorated with white supremacist messages and memes—in detail. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and police officials have asked internet users not to share the video.
The attacker used multiple guns in the assault, and gun control advocates are already clashing with second amendment supporters over the correct response to the terrorist attack.
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez issued an early rebuke: “What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” she asked via Twitter, lamenting that places of worship had been attacked.
In a later tweet, she clarified her statement was meant for the National Rifle Association, for whom she said “thoughts and prayers” is a “phrase used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies.”
Robert Wolf, a board member for the Obama Foundation, said the tragedy highlighted the need for “universal background checks, assault weapons ban & end gun sales loop holes.” He added he was “so sad & distraught to wake up to another gun shooting & act of terror.”
Igor Volsky, who founded Guns Down America, wrote: “To all of you tweeting ‘#NewZealandTerroristAttack proves gun control doesn’t work’ at me: – No law or set of laws can ever prevent all tragedies (see: speed limits). Since 2007, gun homicides have been in single digits each year in New Zealand except in 2009 there were 11.”
But second amendment advocates noted that New Zealand already has stricter gun control measures than the U.S., suggesting that such laws are irrelevant if the shooter acquired equipment illegally. It should be noted that New Zealand has more liberal gun laws than many other nations. The Sydney Morning Herald reported there are some 1.5 million weapons in the nation of approximately 4.8 million people.
Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Reform California, said, “New Zealand has the kinds of gun control laws that liberals propose for the U.S, but laws don’t ban EVIL and HATE. Evil and hate only combated by what we teach our children and how we treat each other.”
InfoWars reporter Mille Weaver followed the theme, writing, “New Zealand has very strict gun control laws…. It didn’t stop a mass shooting!”
Dana Loesch, a right-wing commentator and a spokesperson for the NRA, said the attack was “pure evil. No one should be afraid in a place of worship.” Loesch used unconfirmed details of the Linwood Mosque attack to promote the “good guy with a gun” argument used by the NRA and other second amendment supporters.
She retweeted a post containing a report from The New Zealand Herald, which said two shooters at the mosque had been chased away by an armed Muslim local. “Good guy with a gun. Make terrorists afraid of ever targeting innocents again,” Loesch wrote alongside the tweet.
But the issue goes beyond gun control, and the brutal attack speaks to toxic and ingrained anti-Muslim white supremacist ideology, largely cultivated online. At least one of the shooters appeared to be immersed in white supremacist online communities and culture, and referenced multiple far-right memes during the massacre and in his manifesto.
A person claiming to be the shooter seemingly used the 8chan website to announce the planned killing spree. The message included a link to the Facebook live stream and manifesto documents written by the alleged shooter.
When it became clear that it was not an empty threat, some anonymous users began lauding his actions. One praised him as “the next [Anders] Brevik”—a white supremacist who killed 77 in Norway in 2011. Another called for copycat attacks.
In Australia, a senator has come under fire for blaming the victims for the attack in anti-immigration comments. Fraser Anning, an independent, issued a message condemning the violence. But in the same statement he wrote, “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”