I may not be American, but by living in a border city with direct personal connections to people living in the US, makes American issues my issues. It’s not just about having connections with Americans, but rather the fact that fellow human beings living across the border are faced with pain due to senseless violence. No matter where we live, we need to continue to support one another and echo unheard voices to ensure justice and change.
I’ve grown up listening to stories of violence, whether it was here in Canada like the École Polytechnique massacre, or around the world, such as the Holocaust, the 1984 Sikh genocide, 9/11, the Rwandan genocide, etc. My generation, as well as the ones that have followed, are media generations. We have grown up with being aware of social and political issues around the world. We tend to be overlooked by adults due to stereotyping this generation as entitled, lazy, easily offended, and selfish, however, this generation is more engaged than ever. Our activism is not based on nativity, but rather passion and indignation of what is around us.
On February 14th, 2018, there was a mass shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida. A former student entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and unleashed gunfire, killing 17 people and injuring about 15 others, before getting arrested. This attack has just been one of the 8 school shootings and 34 general mass shootings that have taken place in the past seven weeks of 2018 in the US. This is terrifying.
Like usual, after the shooting, the media is flooded with politicians giving out their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. However, that sentiment was also shared with “this is not the time to talk about gun control.” Well, when is? We all know how this goes. An attack occurs, we share our sympathies, we argue, nothing changes, we forget, and then it’s only a matter of time until another attack occurs.
Mass shootings are just horror of repetition in America because meaningful change is yet to be seen. However, this time things seem different. The youth of Parkdale has come together with composure, passion, pain, and fear to fight for themselves, their lost ones, and for all Americans caught in the crossfire of gun violence. Amid this tragedy, the students have been inspiring and powerful. They have controlled their own narrative by communicating immediately and effectively after the attack by covering their own experiences so they can make a change. They are demanding accountability and meaningful action without wavering in their stance. Their message is clear: instead of condolences, give us action.
As an outsider, the rhetoric surrounding gun control has been a messy one. Some even go as far as to claim it to be an “assault on the second amendment.” However, legislative pushing for more restrictive gun control laws, spanning everything from tighter background checks to assault weapons bans is about public safety. The idea is to create a society that is free from fear of being hurt by a gun when shopping or watching a movie or going out to a concert. The idea is to make it difficult for those getting guns with intent to hurt others. Gun control doesn’t mean the eradication of the second amendment, but rather control.
It is important to remember that gun laws don’t exist to prevent law-abiding citizens to defend themselves as it is their Second Amendment right. Instead, these laws will prevent those people who shouldn’t have guns, such as terrorists, the mentally ill or felons to legally obtain firearms. However, right now the lack of gun laws facilitate criminals to purchase guns legally, which is dangerous. Gun regulations will help to close all the legal avenues criminals exploit to buy weapons to cause harm and chaos. Obviously, criminals can get their hands on guns if they really want it, but it will be through illegal means causing it to be more difficult and a reason for law enforcement to persecute them.
We can all agree that criminals don’t abide by the law. We can also agree that those who have an intent to harm, will harm. However, with easy access to guns, violent agendas are easy to follow through with. Gun control helps to eliminate this access for people with an intent to harm. They may use another weapon or still get their hands on a gun, but the point is that guns become more difficult to obtain. By being required to register, getting licensed, being educated, and having a background check makes things safer for the public. Gun owners that are law-abiding citizens who enjoy “gun culture” in terms of hunting or safety should not have anything to worry about as long as they meet the requirements.
People who are pro-gun claim that “guns are not the real problem, its people who have an intent to kill.” This statement is pushing for the argument that mental illness is the real issue behind gun violence however, that is only partially true. People who have an intent to kill are obviously a problem, however, it is the gun that allows for their violent thoughts to have catastrophic effects. It’s true that guns are just inanimate objects that have no ability to harm on its own, but it is a tool. Guns are an easy, fast and detached way of killing people, thus they are efficient. However, people claiming that guns have no assertion in the perpetration of violence is ridiculous. In general, we can’t mind control people, but what we can control is the distribution of guns. The ironic part of this mental health claim in defence of guns is that people fail to remember that on February 28th, 2017, President Trump signed a Congress passed law that revoked a regulatory initiative set by President Obama. This initiative made it harder for people with mental illness to buy a gun. So how does that even make any sense?
Recently, there has been a “solution” to gun violence which entails registering those with mental illness on a national list to prevent gun sales. This “solution” is incredibly hypocritical. Some individuals with mental illness may have violent tendencies, however, we can’t blame all people with mental illness for gun violence. When we talk about gun registration, many pro-gun individuals feel that registration is infringing upon their personal freedom to own guns, however somehow registering mentally ill individuals seems to be okay. During Obama’s administration, an initiative was set forth to block severely mentally ill individuals to obtain weapons, thus preventing massacres while maintaining the rights of the mentally ill. However, Trump revoked this initiative, thus undoing the only regulation made to ensure public safety in terms of gun violence.
Another popular statement being said is that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This statement is based on a fantasy about vigilantism because the reality is that taking crime into our own hands results in massive collateral damage. Furthermore, for the most part, there are “good guys” with guns, which are law enforcement. The idea that everyone having a gun makes you safer isn’t true either. This statement is counting on the fact that mutually assured destruction will defuse violent conflict. However, statistics show that having guns in the house triples homicide and suicide rates. The issue of gun violence isn’t going to be cured with more guns. It’s like saying that in order to cure tobacco-related lung issues is with smoking more tobacco. It makes no sense.
There is also an argument in place that “people die in all sorts of ways, so does that mean we should get rid of things like cars?” The reason why this argument isn’t strong is that the sole purpose of a gun is to shoot a target, specifically to immobilize it or kill it. Guns were created to cause physical trauma, whereas things like cars are for transportation, which can cause bodily harm when it is used in an unintended way or by accidents and malfunctions. When you use something incorrectly, or it fails to work correctly, there is obviously a possibility of danger. However, things like an axe functions for chopping wood and a knife for cutting vegetables. All these items have a function that is not violence, unlike guns. Nonetheless, the idea of guns being used for protection is valid, however, it still incites a force of directed violence towards something or someone.
Overall, there are so many arguments for and against gun control. This particular debate is impertinent to have in the US because positive change can only happen through open, yet respectful dialogue. After this most recent tragedy, the students of Parkdale are motivated to be the catalysts to bring forward this change because time and time again they have seen too many lives taken and too many families broken. There is no more time for impassioned speeches and lack of action. This time, they are having their voices heard. The time to talk gun control is now because thoughts and prayers are no longer enough. It’s time to get active, be engaged and make your way to the voting booths to have your voice heard. Good luck America!