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A Canadian’s View on American Gun Control

A Canadian’s View on American Gun Control

It has happened again. February 14, 2018 saw its latest mass shooting taking place at a school. In the hours of the early afternoon on Valentines day, Nikolas Cruz took aim on students he found in the hallway of his former school (Cruz had recently been expelled due to behavioral issues) with an AR-15. When the bullets finally ceased, he had ended 17 lives. Since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School which rocked the world in its devastation, there have been a reported 208 school related shootings leading up to the latest at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida.

We can no longer pretend that this isn’t a problem. We need to break the cycle. We can not continue to live in a world where there is the dillusion that the issue will correct on its own.

I know the title of this article alone may be enough to cause a controversy among those who believe in their right to bear arms. So let me start off by saying this: you have the right to your opinion. You have the right to feel as you do. However, as with most things in this world, there is another side, and one that is just as valid, just as loud, and just as worthy of consideration as your own. It is this freedom of speech and expression, a constitutional right on the same page as your right to hold your guns close, that allows us to discuss tough matters. It allows viewpoints to be spoken, and while they may conflict with your own, that does not make them invalid. This is merely an opportunity for discussion, for both sides to state their opinion, and possibly, allow for some give in this rigid debate.

Before I go any further, let me put a few things out in the open. I am a Canadian. Until a recent visit to Las Vegas, I had never held a gun. I had never shot a gun, not even a bb gun. I know a friend who does take part in shooting sports, for example, something like Bespoke Airsoft, which has become very popular in recent years but I’ve never been really interested in anything like that. Guns are simply not a part of our daily lives here in Canada, although many Canadians have guns, usually used for hunting. We do not ban them entirely.

What we do have is strict gun control regulations that all citizens must follow if they wish to obtain a gun. In our system, there are three classes of firearm licenses: non-restricted, restricted and prohibited. The latter of these groups are not forbidden outright, but to legally possess and acquire them are dependent on the registration history and the individual. To obtain a firearm in this latter class, the application must be cleared through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). To lawfully purchase and own a firearm, Canadians must follow three steps: 1) complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course, 2) apply for a license, and 3) pass a security screening of background check, reference interviews, and a mandatory 28 day waiting period.

Does this sound like a fair process? Does this sound like reasonable, acceptable and appropriate action for an individual to obtain a piece of equipment capable of taking a life?

If you are thinking no, then that is where the problem may lie.

It is that mentality, the clear black and white, that is causing strife across the nation. Because that entire process of obtaining a gun is not refusing an individuals right to own one; it is simply making it possible to keep some people who should not have firearms from obtaining them easily. And in light of the recent events in Florida, these are steps that could have kept the gun out of Nikolas Cruz’s hands. These steps could have saved lives. Instead, Cruz purchased the weapon at the age of 17 legally and easily. Not considered mature enough to purchase alcohol but able to purchase firearms.

Again, another confusing fact of the American system.

Since this most recent shooting, there has been yet another outcry for change within Congress to change the policies with regard to gun control. And, as with every time this debate is brought forward (usually following yet another horrific shooting leaving lives lost) there are those screaming to ban weapons, and others cradling them to their chests.

But can there be a middle ground? Is it possible to still have guns be a part of society, but in the right way?

I promised that both sides of the argument would be presented here, and I meant it. There are always gray areas, and this debate is no different. So I am going to feature comments, opinions and statements from individuals across America, Canada and the rest of the world, along with statistics to support some of these claims. This is meant to provide a safe place to state your opinions, as I opened this feature up online for anyone who wished to participate.

Before we get in to the comments, I am going to place a few facts here for comparison.

America

Population of approximately 320 million as of 2016. At this time, approximately 370million firearms were owned by civilians and domestic law enforcement, with 80% of non-military gun revenue gained from civilians. The most comment reason given by civilians owning a gun is ‘protection against crime’.

More than 16,000 murders were committed in the US in 2016. Of these, 73% were committed using firearms.


Britain

Britain has stronger gun control laws than what is required by the European Firearms Directive, and has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world. In 2011, gun related homicides accounted for less than 3% of the total. Britain does allow civilians to own firearms, strictly shotguns and rifles, as handguns were banned in 1996 following the Dunblane school shooting. Dunblane was Britains first, and only, school shooting. To obtain a firearm, an individual must apply through their local police, provide justification for why the firearm is required, and the license sets out the amount of ammunition the individual is allowed to purchase at any given time.

With these laws, Britain has only seen 3 mass shootings since 1980.


Sweden

To obtain a firearm in Sweden, the individual must approach their local police. They must be in good standing, be of minimum age of 18, must pass a gun examination and be part of an approved shooting club for at least 6 months. It is considered illegal for a civilian to carry a firearm in Sweden, unless for a specific legal purpose such as hunting.

In 2016, Sweden saw 306 shooting incidents in their country. The majority of these were in exchanges between criminals.


We reached out online for people to share their thoughts with regard to gun control, ownership and violence. Here are some of the responses. They fall on both sides, from various countries, and show that while there is obviously a need for change, it is not so clear what that change needs to be, and what will work.

‘Americans have the philosophy of everyone can have a gun for protection, Canadians don’t. Here in Canada, it’s a privilege not a right to own a gun. And you have to prove that you have a good reason for owning one. The biggest mistake ever made in America was the Second Amendment – the right to bear arms. Because of this Second Amendment in order to make change in America, there would have to be complete societal and philosophical change. Here in Canada, if a gun owner is charged with any kind of violent crime, their firearms are seized and held until your trial is over. That doesn’t happen in the US.’ – Dave, Canada




With the mention in the above comment of the second amendment, it might be a good place to include this section of information. The constitution was written in 1787. The guns of this time were only capable of shooting a few rounds a minute, as they required the hammer to be pulled back manually to fire. Now, in 2018, it is a different time. There are other means of protection, from household alarms, stronger police presence, and the like. Firearms now are also much more deadly, with the type of weapons used in recent shootings firing 45 rounds per minute for the AR-15 (used in the Florida shooting). It is important to consider that the constitution, while a life changing document, is not infallible in this modern age. As with most things, we must consider the place of these ‘rights’ in fitting with changing times.

I am 100% for gun control. Clearly there is no progress so let’s make some changes and do something we’ve not done, because there is no doubt in my mind that it would save hundreds. It will hurt no one, to have gun control. What’s it going to take, honestly? – Jen, America

Switzerland has a higher per capita gun ownership rate than the US, but not the rate of violent crime we do. It’s more of a culture issue, but not necessarily a gun culture issue. There is a deep seeded culture of violence and a stigmatization of mental health. Guns are merely the scapegoat – what people think will ‘solve’ the problem because solving the real issue would be too difficult.’- Nicole, USA

This comment sets forward one of the strongest causes of gun violence in the world; not just America. Mental health and illness is something that has only recently begun to be recognized and discussed, rather than hidden in shame. Many of the individuals responsible for mass shootings have been found to be mentally unstable, which turns the attention to a much bigger problem; how do we help people before they get to this point? It is an upstream thinking process that many cant seem to fathom, whether from the breadth of the problem, or out of a belief that it is impossible to do. But, what then? It is obvious that individuals such as Nikolas Cruz had warning signs before February 14. It is clear that others like him, in retrospect after committing these crimes, called out for help. Then, out of frustration and desperation, they lashed out in a deadly display. Yes, mental health is hard to see, hard to fix, and almost impossible to combat when so many are facing it. But we cant just ignore it, and hope it will get better. Because it wont. It is only getting worse. While I stand on the side for gun control, I do agree with Nic; gun control is a downstream solution to something that needs upstream thinking.

‘I use to own a shot gun when I lived in Kitimat BC, and my husband owned rifles too and loading equipment for bullets… my son grew up with them. We didn’t fear mass shootings , these were for hunting and target shooting, nothing else… I firmly believe that Automatic firearms are not for the general public, they are for the Police and the Military. No one in the population in general needs these weapons. The Us needs Gun control, it is needed now, not later. Far too many people have died , far too many children… Prayers are great, but they are not changing any thing, children are still dying, teachers are dying….when will the Government of the USA do their job and turn away from the money they get from the NRA? When will they put the people of America first?’ – Margo, Canada

‘There is a misunderstanding in the general public about what guns people are actually allowed to have. Assault weapon is a made up term used by gun opponents. There is no such thing. Civilians are not allowed to own military grade weapons. I don’t have all the facts but there is a lot of misinformation out there. I like having one in my house in case its ever needed, and taking them all away would be a step towards fascism. It would also never work. Hell, banning alcohol virtually gave birth to organized crime in this country, and the war on drugs made things worse. It wouldn’t even deter the weapons black market is already a multi billion industry and growing.’ – Naomi, Las Vegas

Many believe that gun control wont work. That it simply isn’t effective, that the problem is too large, or that guns aren’t the problem. I do agree that people are the problem, however, I still believe we should limit their access to doing harm through gun control. A recent comment online stated that ‘If guns don’t kill people, people kill people, why do we sent people to war with guns? Why not just end the people?’

Gun control has proven, world wide, to decrease gun violence and incidents. As much as people believe it wont, much like prohibition, it has the potential if only people accept is as a positive change towards something better, rather than fight it as an attack on their rights. It is a matter of changing a mentality, that is much more difficult than anything we have ever faced.

See Also

‘There’s been 3 mass shootings in the UK in my lifetime. One in 1987 in a village (17 killed), one in 1996 in a primary school (18 killed) and one in 2010 in a town (13 killed). The result of the school massacre was public outcry, petitions and media support that resulted in an official inquiry that produced Government reports. Two new Firearms Acts were passed that greatly restrict the private ownership of firearms in the UK. Also changes in school security and vetting of people working with children under 18. The UK banned handguns in 1997. I can own some shotguns and rifles but I need a license that I have to apply for through my local police force. Checks are carried out including interviews, criminal checks and a visit to my property before granting permission. If I want to own anything other than a shotgun I have to have good reason, i.e. member of shooting club, for hunting. Self defense is not considered valid. Scotland is the only UK school shooting to date. I don’t own a gun, don’t know anyone that owns a gun & don’t know where my nearest gun shop is. When I send my kids to school it never crosses my mind they won’t return home because they have been shot. Never. You decide.’ – L, Britain

Many are crying for change from Congress with regard to American gun legislation, but have little belief that things with change. The desperation of people looking to improve the state of America has taken a turn, with recent social media calls for students and faculty to walk out of class April 20, and refuse to go back until Congress makes appropriate changes with regard to safety in schools, and the issue of firearms.

Survivors of the Florida shooting are among those looking for change, including Emma Gonzalez in an emotional and determined speech found HERE

“If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened…I’m gonna happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.” – Emma Gonzalez

No matter where you stand on this particular issue, America has reached a tipping point. No longer can they continue on this path, without change. It is clear, however, that they have yet to come to an agreement with regards to what that change should be. But for some, such as Emma Gonzalez, who endure unimaginable fear and horror, it is clear that they are ready to fight for what they believe in.

“The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us, and us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call BS.” – Emma Gonzalez

Those lobbying for gun control are not a threat to your second amendment rights. They are not seeking to take away your guns, they are simply searching for a solution to the obvious problem gripping America. Gun control is not gun abolition. It is simply a necessary step towards protecting their loved ones, just as you wish to do by holding your guns close. It is not black and white, there is a gray middle and a happy medium for both sides, and it is there that you must meet.

As a Canadian, many of you may feel I am an outsider looking in. But it is important to point out that the world is watching America, and how it handles this latest event and loss of life. The world is waiting for America to be the country it believes it is; of hope, of determination, and of change. Gun control can work, if you allow it. Mental health education, screening and treatment can work, if you put it in place. The time of talking has ended, and now it is a time for action.

So, to quote the incomparable Mahatma Gandhi:

‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’




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