COMMENT:

Slowly, slowly there have been signs New Zealand is emerging from the initial shock of the mosque terror attacks.

Wellingtonians have started moaning about their buses again, Victoria University was still banging on about its name change, Aucklanders were stuck in traffic, the Prime Minister was finally going to China.

But perhaps the surest sign came in the return of a sense of humour. New Zealanders use humour to deal with all manner of things and in this case it proved a worthy weapon against the pro-gun lobby in the US.

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It popped its head up after gun lovers in the United States noticed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had actually gone ahead with her promise to reform gun laws rather than just make noises which faded away.

Few things better illustrate the chasm in the cultures of the two countries than this debate.

Politicians are usually long-winded but two in this case showed how powerful a few wisely chosen words can be.

The first was National MP Chris Bishop, who responded to Australian Senator Fraser Anning's take on the mosque attacks with just two words: "F*** off."

The second was National MP Judith Collins who responded to suggestions the US gun lobby National Rifle Association might get involved in the debate in New Zealand with another two words: "Bugger off."

Other New Zealanders on Twitter also chose to puncture points made by gun fans in the US with humour.

Police Minister Stuart Nash will oversee the gun reforms wanted by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police Minister Stuart Nash will oversee the gun reforms wanted by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There was much debate about the Second Amendment - that part of the US Constitution that allows its citizens to bear arms.

One person responded the Second Amendment in New Zealand was "togs, togs, togs, undies".

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Others said that in New Zealand we did not have a Second Amendment – we had Second Breakfast, a Hobbit reference.

Many expressed touching concern about how New Zealanders – most of whom did not have guns to start with - would protect themselves now.

Someone else in the US reassured those people that most New Zealanders had "machine shops" in their back yard and could easily whip up a DIY gun. A Kiwi deadpanned back that our number eight wire skills were indeed renowned.

One wit wrote that while the US had the NRA, New Zealand had the National Eftpos Machine Association - a reference to Abdul Aziz who tried to drive off the gunman with an eftpos machine and has become a hero for his actions.

The only real debate on the matter in New Zealand was why it had not already made the reforms. All parties had questions to answer on this.

Both National and NZ First brushed away their previous reluctance to reform, saying things had now changed and hindsight was no use at all.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark was refreshingly honest when centre right commentator Matthew Hooton took her to task on Twitter over the failure to reform the laws in her years from 1999 to 2008.

This came after Clark had said she was Prime Minister for nine years "and it never came to the top of the pile. It's a pity that it wasn't top of the priority list".

After Hooton pointed out it was the PM who set the "priority list", Clark pointed out she was relying on the votes of United Future, which at the time was in cahoots with the Outdoor Recreation Party – which supported hunting.

Then it came, an acknowledgement "this was a failure on my watch". She added that she hoped Ardern would be able to see through the full set of reforms she wanted.

It was another small party, NZ First, that risked standing in the way this time round. The horror of those mosque attacks effectively neutered its objections.

Its MP Ron Mark had previously repeatedly dismissed any suggestion of restricting gun laws or introducing a comprehensive register as "rubbish".

This time, NZ First was quickly brought onside for at least the first tranche of the gun reforms: the swift banning of military style semi-automatic rifles and some ammunition.

The second tranche – including a proposed register - will come after things have calmed down and will involve more complex discussions.

Those seem likely to be put forward in an election year, when NZ First is again trying to claw its way above the 5 per cent threshold and may well want to appeal to the very voters who do not support the restrictions.

Change may be a more difficult task then.

If so, Ardern may want to borrow some words from Bishop and Collins.