When children in Sandy Hook were massacred by semi-automatic fire America had a choice: do something or do nothing.
The implications for the latter would be grave. To do nothing after school children are shot dead would leave a bold statement that even the most heinous crime against the most vulnerable in the country would be tolerated and accepted.
Doing nothing after Sandy Hook meant Americans culturally accepted the ensuing mass shootings on school children.
There’s no shortage of ideas of how to deal with the problem of gun violence in the US, (and no, adding more guns isn’t the answer.) I have only one contribution to make. From a Canadian to my American friends:
America is sick with a sickness called gun culture.
The mind boggling statistics for mass shootings in America–it leads every nation on earth by a country mile–should be reason enough to enact change. About 33,000 Americans are shot a year. More than 8500 have died from these gunshots. [Source] But no changes are imminent. Even having a conversation about gun culture is difficult. Gun proponents attack any notion of reform using the oft cited replies ranging from, “let the families grieve”, “arm the teachers”, the stupidity of “guns don’t kill people,” all the way down to, “it’s my 2nd Amendment right”. The answer to proponents: add more guns, arm more people, protect my 2nd Amendment rights.
It’s a false belief that in the current state nothing can be done, which is patently false. The facts are more guns = more gun deaths, and a LOT can be done even while protecting the anachronistic 2nd Amendment. Yet public opinion remains entrenched over another polarized topic of American culture.
If Sandy Hook didn’t change minds what will?
Look at the culture. The NRA continues to receive staunch support because it’s built into the identity of so many Americans. To some, losing their gun rights is akin to losing a piece of themselves. This is partly why killing school children has little affect on overall reform sentiment.
A Part Solution to Gun Culture
America has a gun problem, but it’s deeper than that. America suffers from the dominance of gun culture.
As a Canadian, we simply lack the fascination with guns as a whole. I can buy an AR-15. But that gun is classified as a restricted weapon, only a few thousand are sold every year, we have stricter gun laws, but more importantly Canadian culture lacks a strong undercurrent culture of militarism. A different culture coupled with fewer guns produces a Canada with a fraction of gun violence including exceptionally few mass shootings.
America’s gun problem won’t change until the fascination and celebration of gun culture wanes. The country won’t benefit from a new direction today, it’s a shift to change culture tomorrow.
When will this happen?
Demographics are shifting and therein lies a source for future change. Much like the fall of the white Protestant church, immigration and demographic shifts (led by increased power of minority voices), coupled with aging Baby Boomers, gives rise to new opportunities for the next generation of voices to be heard. And let me tell you this, I believe pro-gun culture in America IS declining. All of the mass shootings in elementary schools IS taking its toll. And the next generation of voices ARE creeping through.
Emma Gonzalez’s instantly historic speech got the nation to stop and listen about gun reform. Now she’s taking her message to Washington D.C. in the hope of making Parkland America’s last mass shooting. pic.twitter.com/7p069Wy7dA
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 18, 2018
How much longer until measurable changes happen? Perhaps a generation or two? Which should highlight why changes today count big. To restrict gun ownership and change rules for semi-automatic rifles today, although unpopular for gun lovers, will have impact today. However, that investment will pay dividends as culture shifts permanently for the NEXT generation to live without the fear of being shot at school. That in itself should be reason enough to lead change.