How Much More Do We Need? Libertarian Gun Culture and Cultural Irresponsibility

It’s an image infinitely sadder, for me, because of the dog.

Three RCMP officers gunned down by a madman in Moncton were laid to rest yesterday, and the images streamed from the procession were solemn, sad and filled with a sense of pregnant inevitability. We don’t yet know why Justin Bourque, garbed like “Rambo” and armed with assault rifles, a bow and knife, killed three Mounties in the usually quiet Moncton. But, we know that it will happen again, in the same way that Columbine was neither the first, nor the last school shooting. It seems we’re already a little desensitized to spree killings and shootings like this. Really, how widespread was the coverage and how shocked were you at the news of the Seattle Pacific University shooting last week? Was the coverage as intense, or your shock as profound, as when the Virginia Tech shooting happened? Not likely. And, as these shootings continue to occur and our desensitization deepens, the question left lingering is how many is enough? How many people need to die needlessly before we turn a critical eye on the culture and legislation that has created the environment within which these tragedies breed? When is it enough, and enough blood has been shed, for us to set aside our falsely principled defense of rights and freedoms in the interest of greater safety for the many? Or, are we too arrogant to do what’s best for us?

What troubles me about the picture is the dog.

I’m not a kid person, so my mind goes to a different corner when I think of the senseless death of another human being. Each victim in each of these shootings leaves behind a mother, father, sibling, wife and kids, friends or loved ones. These are the extended victims of tragedies like the Moncton shootings. They will be left behind to try and fill a gap in their lives that can never be filled. In some ways, I find that to be the most cruel part of the taking of another person’s life; not the loss of life, but the extended and lasting torture it inflicts on those who feel the absence of the fallen. But, when I see a picture of a hearse being led by a procession of Mounties, tailed by a lone Mountie leading the service dog that the fallen officer had as a partner, something deeper in me breaks a little.

It’s hard for people to try and come to grips with a senseless death. It’s harder for kids, who haven’t experienced the evils and ugliness of life and aren’t as well equipped to sadly acknowledge that this kind of sickness exists. But, animals have absolutely no ability to understand. They can’t compute words of condolence and sympathy. They can’t weigh the situation and come to a rational conclusion as to what happened, and why. They just feel a loss, perhaps even feel a lingering hope that the person who is absent will come walking around the corner at any moment. That part of their pack, that companion, was there one moment, and is simply not any longer. They can’t understand it, not even as well as a child, and that affects me a little more than maybe it does other people. Maybe that’s just me.

But, that’s why that picture makes me a little sadder.

When this happens in the US, the immediate topic of discussion is gun control. Our American neighbours have much more lax rules and regulations surrounding firearm ownership, resulting in a staggering number of firearms possessed in the US; statistics indicate that there is an equivalent of nearly one gun owned for every man, woman and child in the US. Think about that for a moment. A country of over 300 million people, with private gun ownership per capita around 89 per 100. The US has 50% more firearms owned per capita as the next two highest nations (Serbia and Yemen,) and three times as many as major European countries. Canada, by contrast, has just over a third the number of guns per capita.

The Americans like their guns.

But, so do we.

In the US, saying the words “gun control” is akin to saying “child pornography.” Nothing sets off a firestorm of righteous indignation and lunatic defensiveness faster than broaching the subject of limiting the number and kind of weapons that an American can own. Canadians usually like to think they are on the right side of that debate, since our laws are a lot more restrictive, but there’s an undercurrent of lunacy here too. Canadians are just as enamoured with their weapons, and the same kind of thinking behind the ridiculous defense of gun ownership in the US exists here in Canada. The abolishment of the Long Gun Registry and the semantics surrounding that event are a great example, as is the official release from the Canadian National Firearms Association after the killing of the three Mounties in Moncton, before the killer had even been apprehended.

In their release, the NFA ridiculously asserted that the Moncton killings were evidence that “Canada’s excessive firearms control system has failed again.” According to the NFA, “Incidents like these demonstrate the validity of the mounting evidence that none of Canada’s firearm control efforts over the past 50 years have had any effect on preventing violence, or otherwise stopping bad people from carrying out their evil deeds.”

As arrogant and thoughtless, and downright tacky as making a proclamation like that public while an active shooter was still being sought and a small community was coming to grips with the deaths of three officers is, I’ll agree with them on that last part. As disgusted as I am by the NFA for so gutlessly saying something so crass and heartless, at the time that they said it, and as absurd as it is to say Canada’s controls have “failed,” I’ll agree with them that our gun control measures haven’t stopped violence or evil from occurring. They’re right.

But, they’re also incredibly wrong.

You can never stop evil people from committing terrible acts. Where the motivation exists, a means will be found to act out malice. No amount of gun control can stop 100% of gun crime. But, it seems as though our gun control system has to have had some positive effect when you compare our “excessive” system to the almost absent system in the US. Gun crime is a footnote here, compared to its prevalence in the States. The fact that Justin Bourque was able to do what he did doesn’t indicate that our system failed, and I have no idea how the warped minds at the NFA could come to such a convoluted conclusion, other than by blind, self-serving logical backflips. The fact we have one Justin Bourque instead of a thousand is because our system has at least partly worked.

It’s our culture that’s failing.

People are so arrogantly confident that their freedoms are being unjustifiably curtailed that they’ll defend statements like that from the NFA. We are so conditioned to think that government regulation, any government regulation, is a burdensome shackling of our freedoms, that it’s a symptom of the Canadian “nanny state,” that they can entirely miss the point that Moncton drives home. Freedoms need to be responsibly exercised, and should be measured against their value to the greater good of the public. If they don’t serve the greater good, or, more specifically, if they pose a reasonable risk to the good of the public, it makes perfect sense to regulate and curtail those freedoms.

I can almost imagine the simmering bullshit that is nearing a boil amongst a certain segment, reading that last statement.

What purpose does an assault rifle serve? It isn’t for hunting. It’s for “hobbiests” who enjoy target shooting. Those are the people who will argue that Canada’s control systems are a burden, because you have to go through a series of hoops before you can own a “restricted” weapon for your target shooting enjoyment. But, really, you don’t need an AR-15 with a high capacity magazine to kill a sheet of paper. That weapon, and others like it, have been built with only one purpose, and that is to more efficiently kill people. Shouldn’t the fact that there are hoops to go through to own one be reasonable to any sane, rational person.

The argument that our control system isn’t fully effective doesn’t indicate evidence that it should be abolished. Frankly, the fact that people can privately own those restricted weapons is the problem in the first place! If it isn’t for hunting, what purpose does it serve? And, if it isn’t for hunting, why in hell do you really need it in the first place? Want a system that can’t be criticized for being loopy in areas? Simply reduce gun ownership to registered ownership of hunting rifles only.

Now I’ve stepped off the edge, I’m sure.

People want to be able to own these weapons because, they will argue, why shouldn’t they be able to? Justin Bourque could have killed those Mounties with a hunting rifle. I will concede that. It probably would have been more difficult for him. Maybe they would have stood more of a chance. But, it could have been done. That doesn’t exactly prove much of a point, though.

The reason you shouldn’t be able to own those weapons is because you shouldn’t. There is absolutely no need for a private citizen to be better equipped than the law enforcement agencies that are charged with their protection. Arming citizens with weapons of that nature relies on people’s responsibility, and it is perfectly reasonable, and entirely wrong, to expect that people should be responsible.

People are more likely to argue loudly for their freedoms than they are to be responsible with the freedoms they already have. Take a look at the number and severity of animal abuse cases that have been publicized this year alone, and tell me that people respect life and can be responsible for holding it sacred.

Flip the NFA’s revolting statement on its head. Since evil deeds and violence will be carried out by those motivated to do so, there is absolutely no need to grant access to better means of carrying out those deeds, so Canada’s firearm control systems aren’t¬† excessive enough. That’s how they have failed.

Gun culture in Canada is nothing like it is in the US, but the libertarian defense of gun ownership here is just as dangerous as the mentality of gun advocates south of the border. Consider the US an example of what reducing what the NFA would consider “excessive” can bring about. Do we need to have more shootings and school killings in Canada before we start to understand that some things should be controlled, or are we all just too arrogantly interested in being freed of regulation for the sake of freedom that we don’t care? I honestly don’t know. But, when I read statements like what the NFA released, I know that there will be more Justin Bourques in our future.

And, that makes yesterday’s funerals all the more tragic.

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