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American Gun Laws' Influence on Canada

By astucieux Jun 12, 2013 1894 Words
Less than one week ago, Adam Lanza killed twenty children, six adults and his own mother in Newton, Connecticut (Barron, J.). He used three semi-automatic firearms, including two handguns and a rifle. This was the second most deadly massacre in American history. Gun control activists are screaming, trying to get people to understand that this could have been prevented or lessened if these kinds of weapons were not so readily available to anyone who was looking. A similar event occurred earlier this summer in a movie theater where James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 60 others. It is evident these mass shootings are no longer random tragedies, that there may in fact be an underlying issue. We look at this event as a reaffirmation of why we choose to live in this country, and we believe we are immune to the effects of gun violence because of our restrictions and laws regarding guns. However, in cities such as Toronto, the issue is all too real. This paper is asking the question, how do American gun laws and trafficking affect Canada and her citizens through anthropological, psychological and sociological perspectives. Guns have been used since settlers came to the Americas in the late 1600’s and 1700’s. In this sense our gun culture goes back further than either Canada or America has existed. They have been central in any major conflict in the past 300 years, and without them we would have to resort to killing people with old fashioned methods such as bows and swords. As Sean Connery would say, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” This has more or less been the American people’s motto since the country’s constitution was written. The second amendment states, "A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." And boy do they take advantage of that amendment. Although America represents a measly five percent of the world population, they own half of the guns in existence (Just Facts). The interesting fact is only around forty percent of American households own guns (Just Facts). This means that two percent of the world’s population actually owns 50 percent of its guns. One third of all guns owned by civilians in the U.S.A. are handguns (Just Facts). 49 out of 51 states allow the concealment of guns, and four different states do not require a permit of any kind to do so (Just Facts). All of the above facts are staggering, and show how great America’s obsession with firearms really is. We have to wonder, are they taking their civil “rights” a bit too far? Were high-powered semi-automatic carbines really considered when the Constitution was written in the 1700’s? Could this patriotic belief in self-defence potentially stem from their civil unrest many years ago? Guns were a means to an end, and if guns were used to liberate America and claim it from the British, should they not be a symbol of national pride? In contemporary culture, guns are not seen as tools for hunting or even relieving stress at a range, but instead weapons for intimidation, and ultimately a way of solving problems. Canadian gun laws are something of a different story. We have a somewhat less violent past, with much smaller conflicts and no sense of pride lying in shooting native peoples and taking their land. What exactly it was that bred the idea to sensibly regulate and control firearms in this country I do not know. Handguns are still legal, but much more strictly enforced and to own one you must be registered with a hunting/shooting organization and have a specific license. Canadians own around seven million guns, with around 22% of households owning a firearm, far less than Americans (Department of Justice). Almost all of the reasons cited for owning a gun are hunting, and a majority of guns in Canada are owned by people in rural communities (Department of Justice). Canadians overwhelmingly do not feel threatened by their neighbours and peers; otherwise they would all be completing safety training courses in order to obtain handguns. With the prominence of gangs in major cities such as Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, should we be though? Guns are being trafficked across the long U.S.-Canada border every day without being detected, and are sold illegally. Many people who purchase these weapons are gang members or thugs who are looking for a method of intimidation and protection from other gangs. Are we at risk when two forces collide with lethal weapons and little training? The short answer is yes. Not always physically, but certainly psychologically. The psychological impacts of these gangs are easy to see. Children and teens living in at-risk neighbourhoods with low self-esteem or insecurity often find solace in being part of a large group. These gangs give them a sense of identity, that they are part of a greater cause. For boys, who make up the majority of gang members, missing a father at home can also cause them to treat older gang members like father figures. Boys and men who are already involved in crime or drug use are also much more susceptible to joining gangs (Public Safety Canada). Gun violence is a major part of street gangs; it is most prevalent in ones that mainly consist of men under 30 (Public Safety Canada). It is not just adults who are carrying handguns on them at all times and threatening others, 15% of boys aged 14-17 in Toronto have brought a gun to school (Public Safety Canada). This indicates tremendous amounts of youth are involved in gang activity, but more importantly gun violence. If one in six teenaged boys is bringing a gun to school, what are we doing wrong? Even if nobody is shot with these guns, they are being used to bully and threaten other students and these adolescents are being taught violence and disrespect is an acceptable manner of obtaining what you want. In gang-controlled areas of cities, mothers fear for their children’s safety and their own. People are afraid to walk streets during the day and night. Guns are used as accessories to pushing drugs and all sorts of illegal activities. Overall, gangs promote hatred of others and unquestioning loyalty of your own. They are a parasite on the back of a functioning society, and taking away their guns makes them powerless against police and law enforcement, as well as less dangerous to regular citizens. Gangs are not the only source of psychological impact that gun regulations carry. After the recent mass shootings in Connecticut, a newsletter was sent out at our own school. The psychological effect on students, teachers, and parents was evident. The board was offering counselling and help for those who require it. These acts of uninspired mass rage and violence make us question what kind of society we live in where there are no safeguards to protect the lives of children, and potentially our own lives. If a crazed gunman were to walk into Innisdale Secondary school, would we be prepared? Trick question. It would be extremely difficult for anyone to obtain any kind of weapon in Canada who has some sort of mental condition or criminal record. The final psychological effect that relaxed American gun laws have is possibly more devastating than the previous two mentioned. Suicidal adolescents are 75 times more likely to commit suicide when there is a gun kept in their home (Riczo, Steven). Experts agree that other correlating factors such as family problems and poverty factor in, and when handguns are mostly owned by people in gangs who often suffer from poverty and drug abuse, could there not be an even greater risk factor? When impulsive teens suffering from depression have an option of ending their life staring them in the face, it can be too easy. One incredibly low mood swing can potentially take a person’s life if they are provided the right tools. The United States of America undeniably factors in considerably to these issues that we deal with. It is plain ridiculous that we do not negotiate with them about the consequences of their decisions. Sociologically, having extremely relaxed laws south of the border suggests that perhaps guns are perfectly alright and are only so restricted because the government is trying to control us. We know violence is not a key building block of a healthy, structurally sound society. Some Americans, however, want to give a gun to every person so they may rightly defend themselves. This kind of behaviour encourages a lone wolf mentality, creates separation and a lack of trust between all members of society. These kinds of ideas are spreading across the United States through our border and even into our northern communities. In Garden Hill, a small town of 3400 people, there are five different gangs vying for control (The National). After the sun goes down, gangs rule the town and fight for territory. Where did they get this inspiration? Certainly not from their parents or traditions. This behaviour has come from traditional American gangs and floated upstream. In a study done by Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage in 1967, half of their subjects were subjected to anger inducement, and half were not. After that, the subjects were left in a room with either a firearm or a neutral object such as a tennis racket and told they could act in an aggressive manner by electrically shocking another individual. The angered subjects that were exposed to a firearm gave significantly more shocks than angered subjects exposed to any of the neutral objects (Berkowitz, L.). This suggests that even seeing or being exposed to guns is enough to cause angered people to act more violently or aggressively. If simply being near firearms is enough to exacerbate the angry actions of people, is it even a question of whether we should be allowing them in our homes? In my conclusion I will not restate my points but instead tell you what I personally feel about the issue. Gun powder was the worst thing for Europeans to get their hands on. Wars turned into slaughter fests. Giant games of chess where soldiers were pawns; disposable and used to further the interests of the country. Guns are a complete disregard for human life and if I had the opportunity I would go back in time and prevent their invention. It is not possible to prevent murder by removing guns, but it takes away peoples’ ability to exact their worst intentions on others. Curbing the use of guns in America is one part of the puzzle in achieving a state of peace in the world. Those that believe peace can only be achieved through war are naïve. As the great George Carlin once said, “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” Canadian politicians must plead with the Obama Administration to firmly stomp out this issue once and for all, as a benefit to not only Americans but their neighbours to the north as well. As much as they would like to believe they are the centre of the earth, America is still one of the most influential nations in the world, be it for better or worse.

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