My recent criticism of parliamentarians for their arrogant dismissals of young New Zealanders asking for action on climate change, our nation's most serious threat, was well deserved.

So also are righteous praises when there is clear evidence of intelligent life and even backbone in the Beehive.

Congratulations are due to politicians of every stripe, even David Seymour, if only inadvertently, for taking swift and comprehensive action on gun regulation in the wake of the terrorist attack in Christchurch facilitated by the murderer's easy access to military-style weaponry in our previously lax regulatory environment.

Echoing the sentiments of ex-cop Chester Borrows, this former New Hampshire gun owner of shotguns and 30-30 rifles sees no rationale for civilian possession of semi-automatic weapons, easily modifiable, whose basic design is to kill as many people in as little time as possible.


The shock of the Christchurch rampage is not only that it happened but that it happened here, upending all of the things we normally take for granted, like peace and tranquillity. The murderer assaulted not only the bodies of the Muslim worshippers but our sense of who we are. In response it's almost axiomatic to ask how could this have happened and could it have been prevented.

The need for prevention is principally being addressed by the rapid development and implementation of better gun laws, including banning casual unregulated access to military style weaponry. But what about the past? Could this horrific event have been prevented?

Any time someone close to us dies, a family member, a loved one, or someone in our care, we're suddenly confronted with our own limitations, our own mortality, our essential helplessness in the face of the inevitable. And what comes to mind is some searching for the "if only", a bit of guilt at our own survival.

It's not surprising then that there's a call for investigating the investigators to find some supposed flaw in what has been prejudged in media as an intelligence failure.

The history of the aftermath of established intelligence failures in the United States ought to be a cautionary guide. Both in Vietnam and 9-11, analysis failed to effect good decision-making because of flaws, not in analysis, but in the political will of the decision-makers. In the aftermath, the spy agencies only grew more powerful, more aggressive but not wiser. Arrogance and power-lust lead the agency to the darkness of torture.

If there were any shortcomings in our own spy agencies, it was likely one of focus. The threat posed by ISIS and other faraway Islamic jihadist groups made imminent by an overexcited media, drew attention away from the local white supremacists raging around.

Nonetheless, the rapidity in which those two men who streamed the murderer's video were arrested, says a lot about our agencies' ability to regroup once they pay attention to the right signals. An inquiry with a goal of prevention, not of blame, might be salutary indeed if it were wide-ranging.

For a start it ought to address the failure of former Police Minister Paula Bennett to fight for the implementation of the 20 recommendations of the Parliamentary Select Committee to tighten gun control.


The inquiry needs to cast light into the dark corners of the gun lobby's influence on our nation's safety including the possibility of foreign influence — the long reach of the NRA.

Any inquiry into possible prevention of future massacres needs to look into those allegations. Citizens need to know how their safety was compromised by the extraordinary claims of gun owners to a right that is non-existent in New Zealand.

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.