For many years I have spent a week each summer visiting family in Vancouver, B.C., a uniquely picturesque Canadian city enveloped in mountains and floating on tidal waterways.
Its citizens and businesses are much the same as our own, even if their clothing is more fashionable and the prices a notch higher, but for all its familiarity, the Vancouver situated 180 miles north is more European than American. It is, in essence, distinctly Canadian, and nowhere is that more obvious than its restrictions on the private ownership of firearms.
For proof, one need look no further than the city’s daily newspaper, The Vancouver Sun. Like most dailies, The Sun had extensive coverage on the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, including which practically vibrated with Canada’s measured opinion on the topic of gun control which.
To put it nicely (i.e. the Canadian way), their view is fundamentally different from our own.
One of The Sun’s editorial writer went straight for the American jugular: – the American right to bear a whole lotta arms – by asking, “When are our American neighbors going to wake up and realize that gun production, gun rights and loose legislation are the real reason for these atrocities?”
As it turns out, he’s not the only one up north harboring that same opinion. Canada’s comparatively strict gun regulations and statutes are widely popular (with the exception of a vocal but largely ignored minority) suggesting a country in lockstep with the writer’s rhetorical plea.
Not to suggest that Canada does not have violent crime. In fact, handgun related homicides have increased dramatically in recent years. The Toronto area has weathered two recent shootings (the first June 2 and the other July 16) which left a total of four people dead and more than twenty injured. These incidents also have a tragically surreal connection to Aurora’s recent shooting: Jessica Ghawi, 24, survived the June shooting in Toronto uninjured only to die in a hail of bullets in Colorado.
Still, all the crime scene tape surrounding all the homicides in Canada (605 in 2006) would not cover a quarter of the tape strung in California, a state of comparative population (2,483 for that same year). Our streets are simply more violent than those in Canada, and the reason for that is as endemic to the American experience as was the violent birth of our country.
America is a country created out of war. Rough men armed with rifles – explorers, soldiers and frontiersmen - pushed our borders to the western shore. Our combative system of government and deeply competitive capitalist nature is the adversarial byproduct of our uniquely American lifestyle. We love our independence. But a strong national government? Not so much.
While America fought to exist, Canada was released with the blessings of our common mother. No surprise it has maintained many of its British traditions and ties, nor has it felt the need to fight more than a handful of military actions at home or aborad. Canada’s reputation as an introverted and courteous country is the polar opposite of the colossus on its southern border.
I am, of course, speaking in generalities. Exceptions abound. There are Canadians who advocate for fewer gun restrictions just as there are Americans who want to see the 2nd Amendment go away. Yet our separate pasts somehow stand between useful discussion on an epidemic that threatens lives in both countries.
Dying by gunfire is a problem without boundaries. It would be a welcome change if we were to stop pointing fingers and pay attention to our common problem.