New Zealand’s Prime Minister Is Showing the World What Real Leadership Looks Like

Trump, she says, “asked what support the US could provide. My message was sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a press briefing in Wellington, New Zealand, on March 16, 2019. Xinhua/ZUMA Wire

It’s been a striking study in contrasts over the past 24 hours: In the aftermath of the New Zealand massacre, President Donald Trump declared that white nationalism was not really a rising threat, but merely a “small group of people that have very very serious problems”—all while failing to offer words of comfort to America’s Muslim community. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meanwhile rejected Trump’s assessment and has taken a decidedly different approach—one of compassion and of action.

“Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities—New Zealand is their home—they are us,” she said in a moving statement in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

On Saturday, Ardern also noted that Trump was among the international leaders who called her to offer support. “He very much wished for his condolences to be passed on to New Zealand,” Ardern said. “He asked what support the US could provide. My message was sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.”

When she was asked how Trump responded, she said, “He acknowledged that and agreed.” That Trump—who has frequently called for a ban on Muslims traveling to the US and has repeated anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric—had to be reminded to make such simple gestures is telling.

Finally, and crucially, rather than simply offering thoughts and prayers—Trump’s standard—Ardern has vowed to ban semi-automatic weapons in the country, announcing, “Now is the time for change.” Authorities said there were five guns used in the attack, including two semi-automatic weapons, a lever-action firearm, and two shotguns, and that the primary perpetrator had a gun license acquired in 2017.

“While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun license and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now: Our gun laws will change,” Arden said.

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