It seems incomprehensible to many Canadians that the US won’t regulate guns much more strictly after the horrible cases of 2012. As a sometime visitor to the US, this engages a more of my attention than it used to when it was just ‘somebody else’s problem.’ But we have to recognize the flow of guns across the border increasingly exposes us much more directly to ‘secondhand gunfire’ than it used to and this isn’t the only way to look at the ‘secondhand’ issue.
You don’t have to look far in Canada for gun freedom lobbyists and politicians who mimic the US. I get so sick of hearing ‘guns don’t kill people…’ that I almost tune out until something that can’t be ignored occurs. Guns certainly make spur of the moment insanity a whole lot more deadly.
I really liked the arguments in this article by Pulitzer Prize commentator, Nicholas D. Kristof, of the NY Times. As he points out we have pages of Health and Safety requirements regulating ladders which involve death rarely while saying nothing to regulate guns which kill every day. Even more regulate auto ownership and use, a sometimes deadly tool that almost everyone needs to make a living unlike any need for guns. Might I be so bold as to point out that ladders and automobiles don’t kill people… and, by the way, we don’t actually regulate them, but what people do with them just as would be the case with guns. The process for approved use of automotive vehicles is complicated and lengthy as befits any implement which can so easily kill, so why is regulating ownership and use of firearms so objectionable. Yes, people use them for hunting, just as farmers have always had a slightly different view of driving vehicles in the country, but when guns enter urban environments to a far greater extent, it makes sense we might have more rules.
If we don’t think there’s an organization strategy at stake, just recall the lobbies in the US to allow guns to be kept in trunks of cars in organizations’ parking lots and the astronomical rise in carry permits. I dealt with one such situation in Toronto when staff reported a fellow worker making a threat to get his gun and then leaving the premises. We called the police and, sure enough, they found a shotgun in the trunk of his car a few minutes later. At least they responded quickly enough to forestall a possible incident. I have to wonder how fast they’d have been able to turn up if these calls were common every day.
Even a relative once related feeling badly for saying to a bank call center worker on the phone in frustration, “I could shoot you.” Odd how someone who never owned a gun nevertheless made such a comment. Another once wrote to a weapons manufacturer accused of aiding seal hunters, “Your weapons should be used on you.” Although both were women, this one turned ugly with police involvement, but better safe than sorry.
For some reason, we humans tend to leap to extreme solutions in our heads much more often than we would ever carry them out, but easy access, familiarity, practice with weapons and a touch of mental illness clearly stimulates actual use of firearms quite readily. Hardly a week goes by without a report from the US of multiple shooting at workplaces – hence the term ‘going postal.’ Clearly there are instances here and in many other countries, but vastly more in the US due entirely to the easy availability of guns. The other old saw about ‘if owning guns were criminal, only criminals would have guns’ is dopey. Lots of people legally own and operate both guns and cars, but some still operate the illegally and hopefully the laws help limit that even though it cannot eradicate it entirely.
In the US many now feel the answer is to allow everyone to keep arms handy to retaliate (one city even looked at an ordinance requiring every adult to be armed), but incidents of anyone successfully preventing violence or stifling it this way are virtually non-existent. They are ‘man bites dog’ stories. Yet, the National Rifle Association, which was slow off the mark after the latest tragedy, first promised serious suggestions to reduce the problems, but now says the answer is to put armed guards in schools, claiming – ‘the only solution to bad guys with guns is good guys with guns.’ No fear for bystanders?
So what’s driving all this? It’s like guns have become the last bastion of ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ or in common juvenile vernacular ‘you’re not the boss of me.’ But of course, it is driven especially in the US by a well-organized gun lobby. I also get tired of hearing about the second amendment to the US Constitution – while those mentioning the right to bear arms today fail to mention the preceding text: ‘a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,’ which for a hundred years or more saw the Supreme Court limiting the ‘right’ to state militias… until the NRA got into the game.
Doesn’t this sound like the secondhand smoke story? First a few articles that smoking causes cancer, then a concerted lobby group driving steadily for labels, warnings and increasingly interventionist bans in all sorts of locations over many years. Now a service truck driver can be fined for smoking in his or her (sole) ‘workplace,’ the truck, where the likelihood of secondhand smoke affecting anyone else is laughably remote.
The good news is, if a lobby can work against restrictions, it can also work toward them as the anti-smoking lobby proved – even to the point of being ridiculous in either direction. At some point we have to hope a counter-lobby grows in the US and the ridiculousness of the pro-gun lobby doesn’t spill over even more here, but watch out because as strong as the reaction has been to the horrors of the last few months, so much stronger is and will be the reaction of pro-gun lobbyists and that can very definitely, almost certainly already has, spilled over here to the potential long term harm to all of us in cost, in danger, in threat to proper management. As it was I would routinely think about whether an employee to be fired was mentally unstable or inclined to retaliate, but at least I knew the likelihood that they would return with a gun was remote most of the time.
If we thought it was wise to lobby against secondhand smoke, how much more is it to lobby against secondhand gunfire? Need we point out that the vast majority of victims of mass shootings are secondhand victims who had nothing whatsoever to do with the score the gunmen were attempting to settle? If we evolved to restrict one, why not the other? Do you have an opinion on one, but not the other? When will we act on those opinions?