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Christchurch, New Zealand mosque attacks

June 8, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On the afternoon of March 15, 2019, a gunman attacked two different mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during Friday Prayer, killing 51, wounding 40, and deeply scarring a nation that had, until this point, believed itself to be safe from the scourges of gun violence and far-right terrorism. It was one of the darkest and deadliest days in New Zealand’s history.

The gunman, an Australian with ties to the racist and xenophobic Identitarian Movement in his native country, opened fire at the Al Noor Mosque around 1:40pm, while several hundred people were inside for Friday Prayer. After several minutes of indiscriminate gunfire, he drove about three miles to the Linwood Islamic Center, where he repeated his actions but inflicted less damage, partially due to the efforts of a worshipper who attacked the gunman and successfully captured one of his guns. The assailant fled but was captured less than half an hour after he began his attack.

As news of the massacre spread across the globe, authorities discovered the shooter’s manifesto, which professed his racist and xenophobic beliefs, positively referenced the genocide of Bosnian Muslims, and called U.S. President Donald Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” In contrast to the United States, where mass shootings have become common, the incident was the first mass shooting in New Zealand since 1997. Also in contrast to the United States, the government of New Zealand vowed to implement new laws that would help prevent such a stunning act of violence from occurring again.

The administration of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the world’s youngest female head of government, prioritized gun control in the immediate aftermath, creating a commission to study the issue. The next month, the government passed a law banning semi-automatic weapons and their components and instituting a buy-back period for weapons that would become illegal. By the end of the year, the government had received over 56,000 guns and over 194,000 gun parts.

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Source: HISTORY

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Charleston church shooting

June 8, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On the evening of June 17, 2015, a mass shooter took the lives of nine African American people at a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The massacre at a historic black church deeply shook a nation already jaded by frequent gun violence and heralded the return of violent white nationalism in America.

Among the victims was the activist and state senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s senior pastor. Carrying on Emanuel AME’s legacy as a center of civil rights organizing, Pinckney was a vocal advocate for police accountability who had made national headlines for his response to the murder of Walter Scott by a police officer in North Charleston the previous April. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, joined Pinckney and members of his congregation for a Bible study session on the night of June 17, before drawing a gun, telling the others that African Americans were “taking over the country,” and opening fire. According to one survivor, Roof tried to shoot himself but had run out of ammunition and fled instead. He was arrested the following morning in North Carolina and, after an investigation and trial that brought to light his radicalization and intense white supremacist beliefs, sentenced to death.

Mass shootings were common in the United States by 2015, but the Charleston massacre was a clear act of white supremacist violence that came as the nation slowly realized its racism problem was getting worse, not better. Then-president Barack Obama, who knew Pinckney, delivered the eulogy at his funeral, leading the assembly in the singing of “Amazing Grace.”

The next several years would be marked by more horrific white nationalist violence in America, including the murder of Heather Heyer during a right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and a 2018 shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue that claimed eleven lives.

READ MORE: Charleston’s Emanuel 9 Memorial: Balancing Education With Healing

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Source: HISTORY