Prime Minister John Key says the United States should be asking itself tough questions about gun control after the Orlando shootings rather than leaping into anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Mr Key said he hoped anti-Muslim comments such as those by presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump would not escalate the situation.

"This is the time for the United States to ask itself difficult questions about why there are so many attacks of this nature using weapons.

That's been a longstanding debate about gun control and the proliferation of guns in the United States, and you certainly wouldn't want to turn it into an issue about people's religion or ethnic beliefs."


Mr Key was not surprised Mr Trump had made comments about Islamic radicalism, saying it had been a big part of Mr Trump's campaign.

"I don't think any of us should be very surprised he's beating that drum today."

Mr Trump has been criticised for saying he did not want congratulations for being proved right in predicting there would be more such attacks and called for a ban on travel to the US by people from any country that had been implicated in previous attacks on the US.

Mr Key said it was not for him to critique the campaigns.

Variations of the AR-15 assault rifle, which the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen used to kill 49 people. Photo / AP
Variations of the AR-15 assault rifle, which the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen used to kill 49 people. Photo / AP

"This is the biggest attack we've seen for some period of time [but] there has been an ongoing series of people mis-using weapons and of these kind of attacks in the United States."

In response to Democrat Hilary Clinton's call for a crackdown on Islamic State propaganda, Mr Key said that would be "extremely difficult" to do.

Mr Key said New Zealand's security threat level had not changed because of Orlando.

The Orlando shooter appeared to be acting alone. "That's always the risk, that someone becomes radicalised and does something on their own. So you can't say New Zealand is immune but it's less likely."


The gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, targeted gay nightclub, The Pulse, and his father told US media his son was angered by the sight of a gay couple kissing in front of his family.

Mr Key said he did not have enough information to describe it primarily as a homophobic attack.

"Clearly the person went into a gay nightclub. It's a fair assumption to assume that was one of the driving factors, but whether it was trying to make a statement for Isil, whether he was just a very sick and deranged person I don't know."

Labour leader Andrew Little said it clearly was a homophobic attack. "This is a guy who, according to the reports, clearly had difficulty accepting the right of people to express their sexuality. He chose a gay nightclub. He killed gay people."

Mr Little and Mr Key said they believed New Zealand was a tolerant society when it came to homosexuality, pointing to the gay marriage law.

NZ Herald