On guard: An armed policeman stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch where a right-wing extremist killed more than 40 worshippers. Picture: MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP
On guard: An armed policeman stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch where a right-wing extremist killed more than 40 worshippers. Picture: MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP

Friday’s atrocity in Christchurch has had the effect of concentrating the New Zealand government’s mind on gun control.

The fact that it took a massacre to reach that point says much about the government’s fear of the gun lobby (read: voters) than actually protecting its citizens from madmen.

Of course there will be gun nuts who say the madman is the exception that proves the rule that 99.9% of owners of semi-automatic weapons do not go around killing unarmed people in their places of worship.

While that may be true, it doesn’t alter the fact that a man —who happened to be a Caucasian immigrant from Australia — was able to walk into a gun shop and acquire a semi-automatic assault rifle and a shotgun without too much difficulty.

The comments sections of various news sites are also alive with the usual lunacy that what was missing on Friday was a "good guy with a gun to take out the bad guy".

That the good guy who ended the shooting happened to be armed only with a credit card machine and then the empty shotgun dropped by his attacker, seems to have been missed.

To counter the "good guy with a gun" argument, I give you Jamie Gilt, the 31-year-old gun rights activist who, in 2016, was shot in the back by her four-year-old son after he found a loaded .45 handgun in the back of the car, pointed it at his mom and pulled the trigger.

New Zealand is not the US, where mass shootings are a way of life.

Probably Jacinda Ardern will go ahead and persuade her government to enact the same gun control legislation that followed in Australia after the 1996 atrocity in Port Arthur, Tasmania.

The debate about gun control is — understandably — at the front of people’s minds. Banning guns is an easy course of action — it may even win votes rather than lose them.

But what about murderous, racist bigots?

How do you ban them?