Opinion: An errant ball, or bird … a window suddenly shatters. It's a shock to the system if you happen to be close by.

One moment, a secure – albeit transparent – portal to the wider world. Next instant, a splintering crash, a mass of shards … a gaping hole, with an elemental outside world now pouring in unimpeded.

Yet a suddenly shattered mirror is a degree more traumatic still. A mirror at any given moment is wonderfully gravid - a perfect facsimile, in infinite detail. But broken, not only shards litter the floor – instantly eclipsed is a whole miniature universe with all its marvellous synchronicity.

As a nation, the David Gray Aramoana slaughter was the broken window in our somewhat Sleepy Hollow back-country world. Deeply shocking, but the view through the gaping frame more or less remained the same, and we moved on.

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But as a nation, the Linwood and Riccarton mosque massacres are our shattered mirror.

Amongst the smithereens of silvered shards lies strewn a whole world view that once defined our special sense of self.

Tragically, all the king's horses and all the king's men will never be able to piece those splinters back together again in quite the same way that once made New Zealand New Zealand.

People view messages at a floral tribute at the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch. Photo/AP
People view messages at a floral tribute at the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch. Photo/AP

One phrase frequently clutched at and relentlessly reiterated in an attempt to somehow repudiate the horror of the Christchurch murders is: "This is not who we are."

Sadly, it's at least partly who we are. Nations are comprised of people, and people do stupid things. New Zealanders are no exception. And one of the really stupid things we did was legislate to allow gun kooks – no other word, sorry – to import swathes of military-style rapid-fire weapons.

Sure, there were all sorts of supposed safeguards, but loopholes were soon found big enough to drive a Humvee through, and next thing thousands of the things flooded the country.

Like any other country, a miniscule part of our population is going to include warped and rotten minds, harbouring rancid agendas and ideologies. And a few of those are going to be vile to the point of psychopathological.

Any mongrel who commits random mass murder is by definition a psychopath. By whose other hands could it happen?

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With the mass importation of these weapons, it was only a matter of time before psychopaths got hold of one – or several – of these weapons.

Did we seriously not think that, if an unpoliticised psychopath like Martin Bryant could acquire a semi-automatic via a newspaper ad, and then go on to murder 35 and wound 23 at Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996, that some sort of radicalised psycho couldn't do a similar thing here?

By making the weapons readily available, we virtually asked for an eventual massacre. It's not much different from throwing a box of live grenades into a schoolyard as playthings, while telling the kids to be careful and not pull the pins out.

In the wake of Port Arthur, then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard did probably the one defining positive act of his stewardship.

Within a matter of weeks, automatic and semiautomatic firearms had been banned, new licensing requirements and a national firearms registry adopted, as was a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases.

Whanganui Chronicle columnist Frank Greenall. Photo / File
Whanganui Chronicle columnist Frank Greenall. Photo / File

Over 600,000 civilian firearms were also bought and destroyed. Incidences of multiple killings plummeted, as did general gun-related casualties.

Legislation here stupidly made mass murder weapons widely available, and we've paid a terrible price. Commendably, Prime Minister Ardern has strongly, promptly, signalled radical gun law reform, hopefully with parliament's backing.

The fact that kooks are now panic-buying and stockpiling (for what?) semi-automatic weapons as we speak indicates the urgency of it.

There may be a case for a few exceptions. But we need the guts to not only change the legislation, but also pro-actively hunt down those military-style weapons already out there.

If even Australia managed it, surely we can too.