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Local residents comfort each other near a makeshift memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut Sunday, December 16, 2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Local residents comfort each other near a makeshift memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut Sunday, December 16, 2012. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Expats debate: Something is wrong in American society and gun control alone won’t fix it Add to ...

“We’re not doing enough,” said President Barack Obama at an interfaith vigil last night in Newtown. “And we will have to change.”

The Connecticut school shooting has sparked national soul searching about how to stop mass shootings. Here, our Globe and Mail expats – who contributed to our U.S. Election 2012: Canadians in America series – reflect on the Newtown massacre, U.S. gun culture and the debate over gun control.

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Meredith Nelson is a former management consultant living in Raleigh, N.C., originally from Ottawa:

A definite pall has been cast over Raleigh. Parents everywhere seem to be keeping their children close. I noticed this in particular at the grocery store today [Sunday].

Sad-looking parents toting around more than the normal number of children, and for the record, I had two of mine with me. I don’t think the magnitude of what happened really set in until Saturday. School pick-up Friday seemed normal.

It was waking up Saturday and thinking of what could have been… [and] that there is a new normal began to set in. School is supposed to be a safe place. How can we possibly explain [the Newtown shootings] to our children? We have kept our television off and our newspaper hidden. A large number of churches are holding prayer services tonight; we are off to our annual Christmas pageant, which will certainly have a different feel than in years past.

I hope this proves a catalyst for some kind of change. The United States is not going to embrace massive gun control. Instead, I think we might see more of a focus on regulation and trying to make it more difficult for certain people to access guns, but this will largely be done at the state level.

I also think that more attention will be given to the emerging type [of person] orchestrating these tragedies. Something is wrong in society and better gun control alone will not fix it. I have read a lot about the side effects of some of the anti-psychotic drugs these young men are on, which raises this question: why are so many being medicated and is it really worth it?

Gary Crawford, an engineer from Kingston, Ont., who moved to the U.S. and lived in Texas for many years:

I have recently moved from Houston to Shanghai but am back in Texas for the holidays. My teenage son’s former high school in a Houston suburb had a lockdown the day before due to a student threat connected to 12/12/12. Unfortunately, this results in a sense of habituation where students treat this as being a “joke” or a “nuisance.”

This is a state where Congressman Louie Gohmert wants to arm teachers to prevent this from happening again. His solution is more guns will stop future killing sprees.

I have never felt comfortable with the Texas attitude toward guns. It is ironic that I now feel safer living in one of the largest urban centers where the government has banned ownership of guns. Of course, a Texan would retort that I have traded my freedom for safety.

Brian Monkman, technology project manager in Mechanicsburg, Pa., originally from Oakville, Ont.:

This massacre is really hitting folks hard. And of course, raising the inevitable gun control knee jerk reactions. I’m not in any way a supporter of gun culture but I don’t really think this is primarily a gun control issue. I think it is first a mental health issue, second a societal issue and then, third, a gun control issue.

Mental illnesses are still stigmatized and getting help is difficult, even if you have good health insurance. Let’s face it, no well person would do what the shooter did. People, and their relatives/friends, who have mental health issues should be able to get help easily and quickly.

U.S. society glorifies violence – movies, TV shows, video games. It isn’t a great leap to want to own the objects of that and play out in one’s mind the actions depicted. The rules that control who gets exposed to these images and [at what age] are very lax. I could have taken my daughter to a movie rated R because of violence when she wasn’t yet a teenager. And very few violent movies get an R rating; they are usually rated PG-13.

Gun control laws are indeed not as rigorous as I feel they should be. Gun ownership will never be banned or even significantly restricted. In the minds of many Americans, individual rights are so entwined with gun ownership. I don’t see that changing at all. I would like to see legislation stringently enforcing responsible gun ownership to the point where a background check of all household members be done if you want to own a gun.

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