This is part of our U.S. Election 2012: Canadians in America series – expats talking about life and politics south of the border.
Earlier this week, in the wake of the Colorado theatre shooting, we asked our expats about America’s attachment to guns. But as the public debate moves once more to gun control – with recent comments from both New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. President Barack Obama – our expats examined what can actually be done to cut down on gun crime.
Jennifer Khurana, lawyer in Washington, D.C., from Ottawa:
The prevalence of gun crime and general cultural acceptance of gun possession in the United States is one of the primary reasons why we know that we will not be living in the U.S. in the long-term.
As residents of D.C., we are happy urban dwellers who prefer city living and yet it does not escape me both as a Canadian and mother of two that there have been several shootings literally outside my doorstep in the past two years since we moved to the area. We live close to Columbia Heights – neighbourhoods that are rich and vibrant in culture and all that city life has to offer, but that still face gang-related violence, violent crime and, yes, shootings.
I suppose that until recently, in some naive recess of my brain I figured that as a parent of two small children, rarely out at night past early bath and bedtimes, we would somehow all be immune to the risks of shootings and gun crime. And yet, last year, after walking my son back from lunch for naptime, I went back out to see police tape surrounding our favourite next door restaurant. Our first summer in the area was met by another lunchtime shooting by our metro station, and later on, shootings right outside our neighbourhood library. I can’t help thinking that it’s a matter of luck and good graces that we weren’t in the wrong place at the wrong time, and this is simply not a chance I am willing to take any more, particularly now that I am a parent.
Kieran Edling, student in Philadelphia, Penn., from Toronto:
Philadelphia consistently has one of the highest homicide and gun crime rates in the country and our next-door neighbours Chester, Penn., and Camden, N.J., are comparable. I hear about gun violence so routinely that I fear I’ve become desensitized. When a man was murdered in a drug-related incident at a school playground around the corner from my house this year, my neighbours just shrugged their shoulders and said “it’s life in the city.”
Aside from what’s causing the gun violence here, efforts to write smarter gun control laws here get stifled by the state. Outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a very rural state and people love their guns. The “culture war” theme recurs.
Ben Wright, web co-ordinator in Atlanta, Ga., from PEI:
Kennesaw, Ga., which is a suburb of Atlanta, passed a city ordinance in 1982 requiring all heads of households to own a gun and ammunition.
I don’t think I know anyone in Atlanta who owns a handgun, but every time there’s a robbery close to Georgia Tech (which is in downtown Atlanta) people bring up the issue of allowing guns on campus. Currently the campus is gun-free, but the gun advocacy group is very vocal. So far they haven’t made any traction.
Regan Fletcher in San Francisco, Calif., from Oshawa, Ont.:
I learned to shoot on my uncle’s ranch when I was 10 and I have nothing against my three-year-old son owning a gun one day if his intelligence justifies the need for one. But since I don’t hunt and we live in an urban area and until such time as I haul him to northern B.C. to my uncle’s ranch so he can experience guns in an appropriate setting, he’s going to hear me tell him that guns are bad and can ruin your family.
Penny Stamp, graphic artist in Orlando, Fla., from Regina and Toronto:
I have a huge disdain for using tragedies like Colorado and accidental killings to influence making more and more laws. Emotional lawmaking is foolhardy. The intent of the original constitutional amendment was that the government couldn’t control the public by disarming that public. I don’t believe I am influenced by NRA marketing tactics by interpreting the constitution in this way. I believe I am influenced by the events surrounding the reason the founders of the country wrote the amendment.
I think if a person wants to hurt someone, or a lot of people, they will find a way to do it. Period. Laws, regulations, controls, etc., be damned. I think of this a lot when I go through airport security, as I have recently. It all seems like a front to make people feel safe and not actually making anyone any safer. Senseless acts of violence are just that, senseless. No law is ever going to make a killing spree sensible and lawful. When Americans realize that the feeling of safety is not as important as actual freedom and safety, then we will be released from this emotional prison.
No, I am not saying give everyone and anyone guns and bombs, I am just saying let’s think about what regulations would be effective and contribute to actual safety, and not just make laws as a knee-jerk reaction to a single instance of insanity.
Some quotes have been edited and condensed.