Summer of the Gun

According to reports Canada’s crime rate is at its lowest level since the 1970s. A comforting thought if only we were not reminded on a daily basis of gun related violence on the streets of one of our country’s biggest cities.  Toronto has seen in recent days more than a handful of gun related crimes resulting in an unsettling amount of deaths, of both people known to the police and innocent bystanders. From an outsider’s point of view Toronto streets may be considered relatively safe when compared to other highly populated urban spaces – New York and Los Angeles come to mind – however local residences may feel otherwise.  And simply because Toronto is experiencing less than average amounts of gun crime when looking on a global scale does not make it less traumatic and troubling. Reports are making the rounds that suggest Toronto’s Caribana parade, the city’s annual summer Caribbean carnival, will improve security by searching bags and the like, “We are doing it because of the concerns that really are out there about our event, from people that aren’t going to be at our event. It’s not a big thing to search bags but if it would make people feel better, we certainly would do it,” The Globe and Mail quoted Caribana spokesperson Stephen Weir as saying. Check bags all you like, but what will keep those bags free from guns in the future is education and a change in mindset and culture.  Our love affair with violence has to come to an end in order for things to really change. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty met in Oshawa, Ontario this week and discussed the need to tackle the rise in Canada’s gun violence, “‘The fact of the matter is, most of the guns that end up in the hands of young criminals are illegal guns and they’re coming from South of the border,’ McGuinty said, noting that the Prime Minister indicated ‘he’s going to take another look at that,’” the CBC reported. I hope Harper will do more than take a look at it, because with no offense intended towards our American friends, it appears obvious that there are some serious gun issues south of the border as well. Just last week a former med student used an assault rifle to terrorize a multiplex in Aurora, Colorado where he killed 12 individuals and had his rifle not jammed may have slaughtered many more.  And I worry of the ignorance as it spreads, according to reports by the BBC gun sales have risen following that specific shooting. A common argument for the gun-carrying man or women is that they’ll be better able to protect themselves with a gun if someone tries to attack them.  In my view this is reprehensible and juvenile; an argument inline with you started it.  Where is the rational?  Seems obvious that fewer guns would result in fewer gun related deaths.  It has been said that the man who shot dead those 12 people and wounded dozens of others at the in Aurora, Colorado movie theatre got his weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition through the mail. To most Canadian’s the concept of buying an assault rifle through the mail is absurd; to most American’s it’s called their second amendment right.  Remember the West was won with a Colt six shooter.  From Wyatt Earp’s shoot out at the O.K. Corral to Wild Bill Hickok’s Wild West shows the culture is steeped in gun lore. American musician Moby made a great point when he wrote on Twitter just a few days ago, “Last year in the UK there were 39 murders involving guns. Last year in the U.S. there were 9,970. Please don’t say that regulations don’t work”, he continued, “or, per capita: U.S. had 14.2 gun deaths per 100,000 people. Ireland had .95. Scotland had .54. Japan had .005. Gun regulations save lives.” It’s highly apparent that gun laws work. The challenge is that our Southern neighbors have a drastically different gun culture than ours.  It is almost impossible to stop the flow of firearms across the border and the thought that additional gun laws will keep those guns out of the hands of criminals is absurd.  What is needed most is a dialogue that’s focused on the prevention of gun related crime and violence along with effective enforcement of the laws in place. | Raymond Matt, CFP, CLU, TEP, CHS | The Ontarian, Writer, Editor

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