Sandy Hook Broke Our Hearts

While every country has a psychopath that commits mass murder—Canadians need only think about Marc Lépine and Montreal’s École Polytechnique—there was something about the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that simply broke our hearts.

In part it was that they were such young innocents and so undeserving of such violence.

Being so close to Christmas also made it especially poignant as there isn’t a parent among us who hasn’t thought of how painful and sad it will be for the friends and families of those lost.

But even President Obama struggled to retain his composure as he, like all of us, tried to make sense of the third mass shooting since July and the fifth since he took office.

The overwhelming question seems to be, “When is enough, enough?” How many have to be killed before we—especially Americans—say that’s it, and meaningful action is taken.

While it clearly is a complex issue, every mass murder has had two things in common.

At the heart of each killing has been an angry young man who clearly demonstrated a need for psychological help long before he saw a massacre as a solution.

Secondly, that angry young man had access to lethal assault weapons.

In the United States, lax gun laws make it far easier to get guns including automatic weapons. But it’s more than that, as there is also a different culture and sense of entitlement that Americans have the right to bear arms. 

It is a culture and an attitude for which too many are paying with their lives.

At least 87 Americans die every day—over 30,000 a year—as the result of gun violence.

In 2011, 158 homicides in Canada were committed with a firearm.

Allowing for the difference in population (Canada’s 34.7 million vs. United States’ 315 million) means US homicides rates are more than 21 times higher than Canada’s.

Just as staggering are the statistics on gun ownership.

Civilians own approximately 650 million firearms worldwide, roughly 75 per cent of the known total. Civilians in the United States own some 270 million of these. That means with less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, the United States is home to 35 to 50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

According to the 2011 Small Arms Survey published by the Cambridge University Press, there are 83-97 guns per 100 Americans. In Canada, those numbers drop to 25-38.

Of some eight million new firearms manufactured annually around the world, roughly 4.5 million are bought by the people of the United States.

While some suggest we need to reduce the violence in video games and beef up school security, it is instead the introduction of stricter gun laws that is a bigger part of the solution.

As a society, we also need to become more knowledgeable and comfortable with mental health issues and the social alienation felt by others. Rather than ignoring or stigmatizing what might make us uncomfortable, we need to get better at finding help for those who need it before it is too late.

Children are our future and it is unacceptable to live in a world where their lives can be so easily and violently ended.  We can and must do better.



Posted on 12-17-12

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