In the wake of a massacre in New Zealand, President Ron Liebowitz and Rabbi Liza Stern, Director of Spiritual and Religious Life and Jewish Chaplain, sent an email to the Brandeis community calling for people to “find comfort and strength in coming together.” A lone gunman killed 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during a violent rampage on Friday morning, according to a March 17 article in the Sydney Morning Herald

The 28-year-old gunman, Australian Brenton Tarrant, was inspired by white supremacist ideologies and streamed the shooting live on Facebook, according to the same article. Tarrant also distributed a manifesto to “dozens” of parties just minutes before the attack, including to the office of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Ardern’s response to the shooting was praised by leaders and advocates around the world. She described the massacre as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” in a statement on Friday, per a March 17 NPR article. Ardern added that the victims, many of whom were refugees, chose “to make New Zealand their home,” and further condemned the shooter, saying that his actions had “absolutely no place in New Zealand,” according to a March 15 Sydney Morning Herald article

As she donned a black hijab in solidarity with the grieving Muslim community and met with the victims’ families, Ardern vowed to strengthen the country’s gun laws, confirming that “there will be changes,” per a March 17 New York Times article. Under the current laws, “any person aged 16 or over with an entry-level firearm license can keep any number of common rifles and shotguns without an official record of those guns,” per a March 16 Sydney Morning Herald article

In Massachusetts, firearm owners must have a license to buy weapons, which is extremely difficult to obtain, but do not need to register their weapons, according to the Giffords Law Center. Unlike in New Zealand, licensed gun dealers in Massachusetts must keep records of firearm sales. Massachusetts also permits concealed carry, which is illegal in New Zealand, per a March 15 Slate article.

Liebowitz and Stern wrote that they were “horrified” by the “violent act that was motivated by bigotry, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant sentiment[s],” emphasizing that the victims were in the midst of their religious services during the shooting. 

They invited community members to a vigil at the Peace Circle on Friday to “support our Muslim community,” and linked resources that students could use if they were “in need of additional support.”