Taking aim at gun violence

It is not unheard of for a school to receive a bomb threat this time of year – usually on a warm, sunny Friday when there is a physics exam scheduled.
There are likely readers who recall having taken advantage of the ensuing school evacuation, to head for the ice cream parlour, beach or a friend’s garage – a midwestern Ontario version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Offenders, if caught, might have found themselves in detention hall – or even suspended for a few days (bonus!).
This year there is a marked difference in both the nature of the calls, and the reaction. A 17-year-old Toronto area youth found himself under arrest and facing serious charges after he posted a threat to shoot up an LGBTQ event in Florida. Now a 13-year-old boy is in trouble for leaving threatening messages at a Scarborough school.
Recent mass murders committed by 18-year-olds in the United States mean police on both sides of the border have to be prepared to believe such threats and take action accordingly. As much as we would like to think we are immune to such horrendous crimes, we are not.
It is a sad commentary on the times in which we live that teenagers armed with military-type assault rifles have killed dozens of people, many of them small children, at elementary schools, grocery stores and festive celebrations in both the United States and Canada.
Some have been hate crimes, fueled by paranoia and bizarre conspiracy theories. Victims have been targeted because of their race, religion, gender or mere presence at an event, school or other location.
Many are murder-suicides, in which the killer intends the final act in the drama to be his own death in a hail of police bullets.
What the killings have in common is the use of AR-15 style weapons – the civilian version of military assault rifles – which can still be purchased legally in the United States by an 18-year-old, unless there has been a dramatic change in the law in the past few days. They have become the weapon of choice for mass murders.
Many of us have grown weary of the rhetoric that inevitably follows any effort to curtail the violence. Most irritating is, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” While this is certainly true, it is also true that a killer armed with a rifle that fires bullets at a very high velocity, quickly and accurately, will be able to take a lot more lives than one armed with a knife or even a handgun. Military assault rifles may have their place in civilian society – a point that is debatable – but they most certainly do not belong in the hands of a teenager who lives on a steady diet of violent video games and racist conspiracy theories.
The other irritating response is a call to arm teachers – which some states have done. If there were any guarantees that only attackers would be shot, this might work. However, consider a shootout in the hallways between a nervous teenaged attacker, and a bunch of even more nervous teachers, some of whom have only minimal firearms training. The probability of people getting shot by accident is sky high. Even having firearms in a school increases the chance of something going terribly wrong.
Canada banned AR-15 style firearms a couple of years ago, following the mass shooting in Nova Scotia. This does not mean the weapons are not here. They are in a good many gun collections, legally purchased before the ban, and illegally after it. There is an extensive and lucrative market for AR-15s purchased legally south of the border and smuggled into Canada.
Buy-back programs are worth a try. So are increased anti-smuggling measures at our borders. There is precious little we can do to combat the gun culture that exists south of the border, but we can support any and every measure in this country that will protect worshippers in mosques, kids in classrooms, and people celebrating diversity during Pride Month.

Taking aim at gun violence was last modified: June 15th, 2022 by Tammy Schneider

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