After the spate of gun violence that’s left so many of us horrified and dumbfounded, one would think it would be time for a little introspection on America’s relationship with guns. Or is it? Aside from the usual suspects such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy. (whose husband was killed in a mass shooting at a Long Island Railroad Station), politicians are conspicuously absent when it comes to wading into any sort of discussion on gun control. When anyone dares to ask if it’s time to revisit legislation on gun control, the knee-jerk responses are along the lines of “guns don’t kill people; people do” and “now is not the time to talk about gun control; now is the time to mourn the victims.” But if now isn’t then time, then when is?
For the record, I am not arrogant enough to think I have any answers when it comes to solving gun violence. In fact, all I have are questions, so please indulge me while I ask a few:
- Why are mass shootings such an American phenomenon? According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80% of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87% of all kids killed by guns are American kids.
- Arguably, more than anywhere else on earth, Americans have a profound understanding of their rights as citizens. This is an admiral trait. However, does one person’s right to bear arms trump my right to live?
- How and why are mentally unstable people easily gaining access to guns and ammunition–shooting people at schools, churches and movie theaters? James Holmes bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition online before walking into a movie theater and murdering 12 people.
- Why did Congress let the assault weapons ban expire? What kind of pressure are lawmakers facing from lobby groups like the NRA behind the scenes?
- What was the original intent of the Second Amendment: to guarantee the right of any individual to keep and bear arms, or as filmmaker/activist Michael Moore recently wrote, “to make sure a militia could be quickly called up from amongst the farmers and merchants should the Brits decide to return and wreak some havoc.”
- Why is the second amendment held as such a universally accepted truth when we are still debating whether or not access to health care in the U.S. should be universal?
I was born and raised in Canada and believe it or not, Canada has a gun culture too. According to GunPolicy.org, roughly one in four Canadians own a gun. In fact, Canada is the thirteenth largest gun-owning country in the world—surpassing countries like England and Norway. What Canada does have are more rigid checks and balances in place to help ensure guns don’t fall into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. The bad news is that even with more stringent oversight of firearms sales, gun violence in Canada is on the rise—particularly in large cities such as Toronto, where shootings are up 34% from 2011.
As you can see, I have way more questions than answers, and any side of the guns debate that thinks they have all the answers is just plain wrong. Constructive dialogue is the only way to solve problems, and people shouldn’t be intimidated or frightened to ask tough questions.
While we may not all agree on the interpretation and original intent of the Second Amendment, I’m sure we can all be certain that it doesn’t give anyone the right to walk into a high school or movie theater and open fire.