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Happiness is a Warm Gun

Happiness is a Warm Gun

We have a love/hate relationships with guns: try to ban them or control them and there is a great hue and cry about “my rights” and “I’ll carry a gun as long as it’s legal” and “the real problem is black-market guns”; and, of course, the imminent threat of bear, moose and elk running amok in our streets. Charlton Heston famously addressed the NRA with this cheer-inducing mantra: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!”

We also hate guns because they kill and maim so many people each year in senseless acts of violence. Every time a shooting happens, the constituency looks to its leaders for answers and greater control on firearms. But then we argue the other side of the coin that challenges our rights and freedoms. Oh, what a quandary.

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

This week in Toronto has been a particularly shocking and violent one when it comes to deaths caused by guns. The most shocking was the mass shooting on Danzig Street in Scarborough that saw 24 people shot and two young people killed while attending a block party. The following nights saw more deaths from guns around the GTA.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, a horrific shooting took place at a Denver-area midnight showing of the Dark Knight Rises. Reports that a lone gunman opened fire on the packed theatre, killing as many as 12 people and wounding at least 50. As I try to process these heinous acts of violence, I keep hearing in my head that old mantra, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

There are nearly 8 million registered guns in Canada. 8,000,000.

As we all try to make sense of the gun violence happening in our communities, it may be time to insert some facts into the emotion. According to a National Post piece in January of this year, there are nearly 8 million registered guns in Canada. 8,000,000. Registered. It’s estimated there are double that amount in Canada that are unregistered. That would put the weapons cache in Canada at approximately 16,000,000 guns. While you’re letting that sink in, let’s look south of the border.

Gunpolicy.org—an organization that provides evidence-based statistics on firearms globally—sets the amount of civilian-owned guns in the United States at about 270 million. 270,000,000. The rate of private gun ownership in the United States is 88.8 firearms per 100 people. That compares to 23.8 firearms per 100 people in Canada.

I think it’s safe to say that the proliferation of guns in North America is thorough and complete. How does this auger with the idea of more gun control or the outright banning of civilian gun ownership? To use a marine metaphor: that ship has left the dock, set out to sea, struck and iceberg in the North Atlantic and is taking on water fast. It may be time to abandon ship—and the idea banning of guns. Exactly how do you get rid of 300 million registered guns—not to mention the estimated millions of illegal ones? My guess is, you don’t.

The guns just keep coming and the bullets continue to fly.

Gun lobbies have quite successfully instilled the idea of imminent threat into the minds of the population. There can’t possibly be that many hunters in North America and certainly not the feared bear-moose-elk apocalypse we must be armed and ready for. There are that many guns in our culture because we are afraid of “that other guy with the gun”. And in a week such as the one we are currently experiencing, it’s not hard to see why people feel fear and the need to protect themselves.

The issues and problems surrounding gun violence are many and incredibly complicated. From gangs to lunatics, stolen guns to illegal ones, and the psychology of gun culture that says to people it’s okay to lock, load and pull the trigger at a block party, a food court, a café patio or a movie theatre. There is no simple solution to the situation we have gotten ourselves into. And yes, we have gotten ourselves into this because we have voted for governments and laws that allow guns, we have made excuses, we have pointed fingers and we have embraced partisan politics that do little to deal with the issue other than incite polarizing rhetoric. And in the meantime, the guns just keep coming and the bullets continue to fly. Can we really live with that?

photo credit: Chicken Billy


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