KAMLOOPS — I remember when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened. I remember looking at my youngest son’s hands as he was drawing right next to me. They were little, the roundness of his fingers busy and sweet, and most of all safely doing what any kid his age should. He was six and a half, the age of the 20 children who had been killed that morning, together with six adults, by a seriously troubled young man, who possessed many guns, including the one he used that day to commit the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Questions abounded then and still do. I failed then as I still do today to understand how parents and family members of the victims keep on going after such tragedies. Not only that, how do they keep going knowing that the horrible event that took their loved ones away was not the last one but one in a string of many.
As of now, not even two months into the new year, there have been eight school shootings in the U.S., the last one on February 14 at a high school in Florida, where 17 people were killed and 15 injured. The shooter, once again, a troubled and angry young man, who possessed many guns, assault rifles included.
If you check the news of the aftermath, you’ll come across student and staff survivors, family members and law enforcement officers, some angry and at times teary-eyed, all asking why such tragedies are not prevented and vowing to do all they can to make things better.
The solution to this big problem is multi-faceted. Easy access to guns to start with to start with. Someone related to me being witness to a troubling incident while on a trip to the U.S. Acquiring a gun was as simple as walking into a bar and asking. A truck parked outside the bar was a mobile complex armoury, for lack of a better description.
Then comes revising mental healthcare, which is a problem in many developed countries, Canada included. Extending social assistance to those who need it, before they become a problem to society: poverty, abuse, mental health issues and neglect create an awful concoction. Ideally, the road that separates a criminal and/or troubled mind from guns that can be used for mass shootings should be impossible to cross.
The current debate on gun control is a heated one. On the one hand, gun supporters keep reaffirming the slogan ‘guns don’t kill’ and ‘people need to be able to defend their families and themselves’, and so on. Gun-control proponents are bringing their arguments forwards. Guns themselves do not kill, that is true, but having so many to choose from sure doesn’t help. Assault rifles are not needed for hunting or home defense, no matter what anyone says.
Part of for the solution proposed by Trump is to have teachers armed so that when an attack happens they can take down the assailant before any damage is done. Who wouldn’t like to have their children attend a school where teachers carry guns, right? On the other hand, let’s not forget that the school in Florida had an armed guard on site, who, for reasons that are still under investigation, did not enter the school to stop the shooter.
Truth be told, can an armed teacher be sure not to hurt an innocent bystander, should they choose to open fire on an attacker? No matter how to turn it, more guns are not the answer. Common sense forces us to see that.
As for how this pertains to us Canadians, here’s the thing. We do have a better, safer system when it comes to the general public acquiring guns. You cannot just walk into a store and get a semi-automatic rifle unless you have a Possession and Acquisition License, which is only granted after a thorough background check. The incredulous will say that those with criminal intentions will always be able to get guns if they wanted to.
True or not, let’s hope it will never happen the way it happens down south, and let’s hope that we can make sure as a society that we take care of all citizens, young and old, and most of all that we make mental healthcare an urgent issue, among other things, while maintaining the current laws pertaining gun acquisition. So, here’s to hoping, but to be fair, crossed fingers, much like the post-event thoughts and prayers, take us nowhere.
Objective assessments and thoughtful decisions by people who can see the big picture, that is what takes us from a place of fear and hoping that nothing bad will happen, to where we need to be, which is where we do not fear mass shootings, and safety is a given.
I believe it is a matter of proper social conscience to ask now, while we have but a few isolated incidents (see the La Loche shooting) what are the social changes we should implement to never have any similar incidents. There is a lot of suffering in today’s society; there are many who find themselves on the wrong side of the street, locked in abuse, anger and unattended mental issues. Let’s attend to that before the unthinkable happens.