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Recent violence has everyone on edge, north and south of the border
During the summer, weekends are supposed to be times when people can relax and hopefully get away from the stresses of daily life.
While some people go away to the outdoors with family and friends, others look forward to indoor activities such as shopping or gathering at a local club for some music, dancing and a few drinks. Regardless of how one chooses to do so, everyone looks forwards to ways to have fun and enjoy some peace during our increasingly busy and stressful lives.
During the first weekend of this month, many people on both sides of the Canada/U.S. border had their peace shattered by incidents of gun violence and all of us are left wondering what it will take to restore peace in our society.
In the U.S., there were two mass shootings in less than 24 hours in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which killed over 30 people and left dozens of others wounded.
The El Paso shooting occurred during daytime at a Walmart location filled with shoppers, many of them buying school supplies for the school year about to begin; the Dayton shooting occurred later that night at a bar where people were out having a good time. In both cases, countless lives have been impacted and many families will be forced to deal with the traumatic fallout of these senseless acts.
In Toronto, the same weekend, which just happened to be a long holiday weekend, there were 14 separate shootings that left 17 people wounded. While police were quick to reassure the public that this was not a normal weekend and that the incidents are linked to gang activity, the sheer numbers involved should give anyone living in the city a sense of uneasiness.
As has already been demonstrated in Toronto previously, incidents of gun violence linked to gangs can lead to death and injuries among innocent by-standers and such shootings are increasingly taking place in very public places, such as shopping malls and bars. It's beginning to feel like there is nowhere that is totally safe from the reach of gun violence.
While there has not been a large incidence of gun violence in this region of Canada, we would be naïve to believe we are immune from this problem. Here in St. John's, N.L., there have been more shootings in recent years and our police forces have seized weapons that belong more on a battlefield than on our streets.
While it appears this is linked to gangs, it seems inevitable that if we sit back and take a reactive approach to this problem and count only on the police to solve this, the day will come when families here will have their peace shattered by gun violence.
Whereas in the U.S. the right to bear arms is enshrined in their constitution, such is not the case here in Canada and our government has the power to ban handguns. The only use for such guns is to shoot people or to shoot targets and it is quite possible to accommodate the latter by keeping such weapons locked up in private locations where those who wish to pursue this activity could do so in a safe environment. Unlike rifles that can be legitimately used for hunting, handguns do not have a safe application beyond the recreational activity cited above but the risk to public safety by having such guns accessible in our communities should far outweigh any other considerations in this matter.
It is time for our leaders to be proactive on this issue and do something now before the problem becomes much worse. We can't control what happens in the U.S. and will still have to deal with the spillover that happens when we share such a large border.
We can set a Canadian approach to this issue which recognizes that the safety rights of our Canadians take primacy over the privilege of owning a handgun.
Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ2 activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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