New Zealand's prime minister says she and Trump had a "policy discussion" about gun control

New Zealand PM on guns, globalism

Last Updated Sep 25, 2019 10:08 AM EDT

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern got global attention when her country swiftly implemented strict gun control measures following the Christchurch shooting in March that left 51 people dead. Ardern announced sweeping gun laws to outlaw military-style weapons just 10 days after the massacre, and Parliament passed the measure weeks later. 

In a closed-door meeting with President Trump earlier this week, Ardern said the two had a "policy discussion" about gun control but couldn't say whether Mr. Trump is seriously considering a similar ban in the U.S. 

"We had a policy discussion. He was interested in how it all worked, how it had been received," she said. "I got the impression he was interested. I would be second guessing anything beyond that."

Just months after New Zealand passed its ban, Adern said her country's buyback program has already collected 20,000 weapons and more than 70,000 parts — a significant number for a country of its size. 

"For us, actually, there is just no rational reason to have these in circulation. We don't even know how many we had. But the fact that we have 20,000 returned in our small country of less than five million people — that's a big result for us," she said.   

Asked about the lack of action on gun laws in the U.S., the prime minister said, "Well, all I know is how New Zealand responded, and how New Zealand has felt. And when they heard that someone had been able to access those guns legally and then make a very simple modification to those guns to make them absolute killing machines — we are a pragmatic people, and I think the response was, well, surely there is a way we can try preventing that happening in the future whilst at the same time maintaining legitimate use for legitimate users."

Asked by "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King to address how President Trump's rhetoric within the United States is viewed on the international stage, Ardern said that all leaders need to be careful. 

"Look, increasingly, and I think I'd make this statement about any of us. Even if you are from a smaller country like New Zealand, you can be shot up on a platform depending on what's happening in your corner of the world," she said. "The point I've tried to make is that increasingly we're actually all amplified within each other's borders. So, nothing that we say within our own country is just limited to there. We all hear each other now. And our peoples feel the effect of that. And I don't say that to point to any one leader. Actually, that's a duty that we all have. And in this border-less world, now, we need to mindful that other countries hear it, kids hear it, and our words they have impact."

New Zealand's prime minister says she and Trump had a "policy discussion" about gun control

READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF ARDERN'S INTERVIEW BELOW:

Gayle King: Word is that our president did express interest in the measures that you implemented. What can you share with us about this meeting?

Jacinda Ardern: Well, there have been those who have been interested in what happened in New Zealand. Obviously after the 15th of March where 51 lives were lost from our Muslim community. The sentiment was really clear. We are a country who has a legitimate use for guns. Our farming community particularly for pest control and animal welfare issues. But there was a real line in the sand moment for as a nation. And the question was asked, you know, why do we need, why does anyone need military style semi-automatic weapons or assault rifles? And so that's where we drew the line. Within 10 days we announced that those laws would change within a month, roughly, it was done. And now, we are in the middle of buying back all of those weapons. And we've had 20,000 of them returned, and over 70,000 parts.

King: But you've done what we haven't done here in this country. What did—did he express an interest in what you all were doing? Did he have any questions?

Ardern: Yeah, we had a policy discussion. He was interested in how it all worked, how it had been received. And there are a few countries, and I referenced the fact that we weren't the first. Australia, after a particularly horrific massacre did the same. And I think that that points to the fact that in both countries we had these moments in time where our people, ultimately, our people just said this isn't right. And there was almost unanimous support in our parliament. Everyone, but one member of our parliament voted in favor for what we did.

King: Did you get the impression he wants to do that here?

Ardern: I got the impression he was interested. I would be second guessing anything beyond that.

Anthony Mason: You said you don't understand why the U.S. has failed to change gun laws.

Ardern: Well, all I know is how New Zealand responded, and how New Zealand has felt. And when they heard that someone had been able to access those guns legally and then make a very simple modification to those guns to make them absolute killing machines. We are a pragmatic people, and I think the response was, well, surely there is a way we can try preventing that happening in the future. Whilst at the same time maintaining legitimate use for legitimate users.

Tony Dokoupil: when ideas like buy backs and gun bans come up in this country. One of the criticisms, and I know you've heard it in your country, as well, is look law abiding people are going to give you the guns back, but the criminals and the potential terrorists, the people you don't want to have these weapons, it's not like they are going to listen to the ban.

Ardern: Well, one of the points that we've tried to make of course, is that there is only a very small proportion of people who are licensed ever commit crime. A small portion. But, if their guns are not stored properly, cared for properly, they are the ones that can still enter into the black market. So, there is a connection there.

Dokoupil: Are you punishing law abiding citizens, while letting the criminals continue with their criminal activity?

Ardern: No. I mean, certainly the perspective from those who have been a part of the buyback is as they see this as the right thing to do. And in Australia, you know they did see results off the back of their buyback scheme and so I look to them and see that it's a positive experience for them. And for us, actually, there is just no rational reason to have these in circulation. We don't even know how many we had. But the fact that we have 20,000 returned in our small country of less than five million people — that's a big result for us.

Mason: During his speech at the U.N. yesterday, President Trump said, "Wise leaders always but the good of their people in their own country first." What do you see the role of the U.S. as right now?

Ardern: And every leader comes to the U.N. and puts their position in, and all I can do is put in New Zealand's. We're a fiercely independent nation, and of course, as any leader I feel the draw to make sure that I do my best on behalf of New Zealand. But, perhaps because of our isolation, we are also very aware of how the actions of others impact on us. So we take a global view, and we see the impact of our actions on others. Be it climate change, be it issues like nuclear testing, we are increasingly connected. So you can be loyal and focused on the best interest of your nation, whilst also understanding that what we do affects others. And I think that's the perspective of New Zealanders.

King: Sometimes our president has been criticized for what is seen as divisive rhetoric in this country. How do you think it's viewed on the international stage?

Ardern: Increasingly, and I think I'd make this statement about any of us. Even if you are from a smaller country like New Zealand, you can be shot onto a platform depending on what's happening in your corner of the world. The point I've tried to make is that increasingly we're actually all amplified within each other's borders. So, nothing that we say within our own country anymore is just limited to there. We all hear each other now. And our peoples feel the effect of that. And I don't say that to point to any one leader. Actually, that's a duty of care that we all have. And in this borderless world, now, I think we need to mindful that other countries hear it, kids hear it, and our words they have impact.

Dokoupil: Does that mean that the anti-immigrant, strong border rhetoric you hear in this country, and you hear from our president, could have an impact on your security? Stirring people up in a way that could harm?

Ardern: Look, I think the point that I would draw back to is again just New Zealand's experience. The alleged terrorist on the 15th of March was Australian. Not from New Zealand. Hadn't grown up there. Made a decision for a several reasons that New Zealand was going to be his target. But we are increasingly a borderless world. Radicalization and extreme views can be sought and found anywhere via the internet, regardless of where you live. And so I think we need to start thinking more often about the impacts and the ramifications of that.

Mason: The Christchurch shooting was live streamed by the shooter. So you created the Christchurch call to action. And basically challenging to help eliminate terrorist rhetoric on the internet. Are the leaders of online companies, are they responding?

Ardern: They are. I think actually, if you start with a simple premise like should we have violent extremism and terrorism online. The murder of fifty-one people broadcast live, no one is going to think that that is, that anyone has the right to do that. So that was our starting point. And I found that tech companies completely engaged. Of course, they want to make sure that they maintain a free, and open secure platform for people. But they can also see there is a line to be drawn, and so they've been really constructive. We've now generated some tangible outcomes. One is the crisis protocol. Basically, a civil defense response if this ever happens again that we can respond quickly.

Dokoupil: You are right of course, it is a remarkable thing to state out loud that Facebook live streamed the killing of fifty-one people. And yet, the U.S. government has not signed on for this call to remove extremist content. What's the rationale that you've heard?

Ardern: Look there might be many reasons why they haven't formally signed on. But, actually, in reality-

Dokoupil: What do they tell you?

Ardern: Actually, in reality, they've been engaged. In reality they have been working really constructively with us. You'll see that the time the call was they actually released, they made a supportive statement. So, I understand that there may be issues around free speech and otherwise. But actually it hasn't stopped the practical partnership we've been able to form.

King: Only 23 of the 193 nations of the U.N. member states have female leadership. (JA: yes) Why do you think the number is so low, and what do you think - are there consequences when you don't have any more female leaders?

King: Hello female leader.

Ardern: Hello! I'm not particularly inclined to try and create this rare species or this clique. You know, and I think there's lots of reasons, and I reflect back in my own region we're doing what we can to lift the parliament. If you are going to have a female leaders, you need female leaders of parliament and female politicians. It's not a particularly enticing place to be. So I, then my starting point is how can we make politics feel like a place where you can make a positive contribution. And so, that's part of my philosophy is to tell the stories of why and how we can do good.

King: But for you, Prime Minister, people doubted your age, they doubted your experience, they doubted whether you could do this job. Did you ever doubt yourself of have second thoughts?

Ardern: Oh yeah, so did I. So, I'm not going to criticize anyone else for thinking like that. In fact, that's actually a perspective that so many women take. You know, when I think about Helen Clark, I've had of course, I'm the third female Prime Minister. When I think about Helen Clark, who was a past leader, she even talked after she left politics about questioning whether she had the credentials to then go and work at the U.N. There is a, I think, a natural tendency particularly for women to wait until they have every skill required. So it's about looking past that.

King: But how did you get through that yourself.

Ardern: I knew that a job had to be done, and I did absolutely believe I could do it. I did.

Mason: But, to Gayle's question before, what do you think the consequences for the entire world are when we have so few women leaders?

Ardern: Well, I firstly wouldn't want to make an assumption that just because you are a female that you produce particular political outcomes or policies. Everyone comes from their own perspectives. But the world, and I don't mean to draw too many assumptions, but there will be times when we might choose to do things differently. And you'll always, everyone brings their personal experience to the table. And so, particularly, I think If you come as a mother, as a carer then it will influence the way you look at the world and issues.

Mason: One of the most talked about, probably the most talked about moment at the U.N. this week has been the speech by Greta Thunberg, a sixteen year old challenging the leaders of the world.

Ardern: As she well should.

Mason: Do you think she made an impact?

Ardern: Yes, I do.

Mason: Do you think the world leaders heard her?

Ardern: Well, I certainly did. And I'd like to think we had heard her some time ago. But it was whether or not everyone needed to hear it at any given time were all in the room. We need to hear that generation. And they don't want speeches. They do want to know that we are taking it seriously.

Dokoupil: On the subject of taking it seriously. We are at a moment where global emissions which warm the planet continue to go up. In your country and ours. A report came out just this morning suggesting a billion people could be affected by rising sea levels tied to global warming. Your daughter, my children, our families. How are they going to judge this generation, your generation of leadership and their action on climate change.

Ardern: Well, harshly if we don't act. You know I'm really proud of what we've been able to do in such a short space of time. Half of our emissions come from our food production, so we are trying to lead the way and become the most sustainable food producer in the world. And if we figure out how to do that then we've got technology and practice that we share with the rest of the world. Ultimately, this is something we don't have a lot of time. But no one should feel powerless even if a political leader of any given country isn't taking the action that the citizens expect. You can at state level, at company level, of course the private sector has a role to play here. No one needs to feel like they have to stand still and wait for political leadership. There is something all of us can do in this.

King: I want to ask one more question about guns. Because I marvel at how you were able to change the law in ten days. How were you able to do that and what kind of opposition did you have to it. You touched on it briefly. What did you say, what did you to make that happen.

Ardern: Well in the end our parliamentary processes that took place, it took just a bit longer than that. But you are right, in ten days we announced the change and the plans for the change. And we got the ball rolling. Do you know I have to say when I was first briefed on the guns that were used by the alleged terrorist, and how easy it was for him to obtain those guns I didn't check with parliament, whether or not I would have enough votes. I just went down and said gun laws need to change and they will. And felt assured that if the rest of the country, and my fellow parliamentarians knew what I knew they would be with me. And they were. We are a pragmatic people. And when we had that experience, we were united in wanting to see change.

King: Alright, how's Neve?

Ardern: Very busy.

King: Very busy. We remember — that made national news when she was born because you brought her to work. Look at her.