The Insanity Behind the Gun

I was, of course, horrified to learn of the mass shooting that took place in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. It kind of hit close to home for us, and we hugged our daughters a little tighter when we saw next saw them. We also fretted about what to tell them, if indeed they heard about what happened. In some ways, I'm thankful that the news hasn't reached my children, yet. And I am thankful that I cut the cable on the television set six years ago.

It's natural that mass shootings like these should raise questions about guns in the United States and Canada. The parents and relatives of the victims and all who sympathize with them have every right to ask how such a person could have got a hold of such a gun. It seems insane to me that one of the guns found on the scene -- an assault rifle -- could be legally bought in a Walmart in the United States. And let me say that the NRA and its advocates do themselves no favours when they suggest that the solution to this crisis is greater availabilty of guns, or that we should put God back in our schools.

You know, when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for stricter gun laws in the wake of the Aurora shooting, he was criticized for taking a political stance within 24 hours of the event. It's not even 24 hours since the Newtown shootings took place, and yet Mike Huckabee and others are politically trying to defend the rights of people to own guns. The difference between Bloomberg and Huckabee -- and it is a big one -- is that Bloomberg was trying to find ways to prevent people from dying. The NRA advocates seem to be trying to talk around the fact that 27 people are dead, 20 of them children.

But I used to believe in gun control more than I do now. I strongly favoured Canada's gun registry -- at the very least, guns should be registered just as cars were registered, as both items were potentially deadly if used in the wrong way. Canada's gun registry is no more, killed by the current Conservative government after the old registry was mismanaged by the Liberals to the point that it went $2 billion overbudget. Liberal leadership contender Justin Trudeau acknowledges that we'll probably never get it back and we should move on. And the fact remains that Canada too had gun deaths even when the registry was in place.

Children died in Columbine, and nothing changed. More children died in Bart Township, Pennsylvania, and we said the same things, had the same arguments, and did nothing until the next shooting. We have had six major mass shootings in the United States since 2007, and we repeat ourselves. Maybe we're asking the wrong questions.

Canada has more guns per capita than the United States (correction: we don't. See Susan's comment below, and my reply), but we have far fewer of these tragedies. In Switzerland, most adults have an assault weapon in a locker in their home, but this sort of act is unheard of. If we could have found a way to keep guns out of the hands of the insane people who commit these atrocities, the world would be a safer place, no question. However, this response doesn't address the real problem: what made these people so insane in the first place that they could take up such weapons and kill innocent people?

That could be a more uncomfortable question for America to answer than how many of guns it has. How could the society have evolved to a point where this insanity is possible? Is it a lack of religion? Unlikely, since other, more secular countries have far less gun violence. Is it poverty? Is it a failure to address mental health issues?

The answer, assuming one is even possible to find, might be so complicated that the idea of simply banning assault rifles looks far easier by comparison. But is the easy answer really the best answer for the long-term health of the nation?

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