Lack of Gun Laws Fails U.S. Citizens

When I was growing up in Montreal, Quebec, there was a shooting at the school that I would later attend. I mentioned it to some of my friends here in Oberlin last year, when the topic of gun violence had become urgently relevant yet again. When I told them the death toll, they were shocked that “only” one person had died.

And how could they not be, when according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 93 Americans are killed with a gun every day in the U.S.?

Since Sunday night, when a gunman opened fire on a concert in Las Vegas, NV, I’ve heard many American commentators and politicians say that now is not the right time to talk about gun control. It is a disingenuous argument that we have heard too many times before: after Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and San Bernadino. I could go on, but the point is clear. If we can’t talk about gun control in America in the aftermath of tragedy, we will never be able to talk about it. I refuse to believe that it is disrespectful to the victims of a mass shooting to do everything possible to make sure that no one else ever joins their ranks. I am not cynical enough to endorse the position that all attempts at gun safety reform are political gamesmanship.

This is not a hopeless cause. While I understand that the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment, and I certainly have heard the argument that any attempt at common-sense gun reform is simply an effort to take away everybody’s guns, I also think that the Second Amendment does not have to be the government’s top priority when it comes to guns. According to the Declaration of Independence, a critical part of the government’s job is to protect Americans’ rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The fact that there are nearly 12,000 gun homicides a year in the U.S. strikes me as a grim result of the government’s failure to protect the lives of its citizens.

In Canada, silencers are banned, as well as devices that can turn a semiautomatic firearm into an automatic weapon. Magazine capacity is limited; certain forms of ammunition are prohibited; and everyone who purchases a firearm must be licensed by the government.

One of the most frequent arguments that I hear against gun control in the United States is that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” as first said by Wayne LaPierre, the leader of the NRA. However, in 2012, there were 8,813 deaths by gun violence in the United States. In that same year in Canada, there were “only” 172. We do not have an epidemic of would-be shooters going unstopped because of unarmed bystanders. Fewer guns and tighter regulations have led to fewer gun deaths in Canada, as such circumstances have in countries around the world.

The truth is, I don’t know how to grieve for the victims of gun violence in the United States. I don’t know how to acknowledge every senseless death without becoming callous when I know without a doubt that there will be more deaths — the only questions are where, and when, and how many. I am limited in what I can bring to the table — not being American, my voice can only count for so much, and I can’t take my positions to the ballot box.

But what I do know, and what I hope I can offer as a reminder to people who have grown up with this sort of gun violence as a regular event, is that this is not normal. It is not normal to have a new “deadliest mass shooting in modern history” every year. It is not normal to lose count of how many mass shootings have taken place in the last decade. It is not normal to not immediately know who “that congressperson who was shot” is referring to. Mass shootings are not normal. Gun violence at this scale is not normal. And it should not be normalized here.