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Love Outnumbers Hate: Trying To Make Sense Of The U.S. Gun Debate

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orlando vigil

A sign at a candle light vigil in memory of the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, June 13, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

I grew up in a home where firearms were present. My dad is an avid hunter so he had guns -- 3 rifles to my knowledge, maybe more -- that were stored high in his office under lock and key. Ammunition was stored in some other locked location, I'm not really sure where. As a young girl I wasn't really interested in guns, but rather what I was wearing to the school dance or if I was prepared for my solo at an upcoming band concert. My point is; the presence of guns was a non-issue. Normal, even.

My grandfather also had firearms in my grandparent's home. A lot of them, if memory serves, again mostly hunting rifles because he too was an avid hunter. His guns were always locked away safely, so when my brother and I stayed with my grandparents during spring break each year, I'm certain my parents were never concerned that firearms were in our midst.

I'm not anti-gun. Two men that I adore are and were licenced gun owners. What I find confusing, though, is the conversation surrounding gun control in the U.S.

I left Canada over a year ago to live in California. I can't say I've ever felt unsafe here, despite the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S., until recently. When I first heard news of the Orlando shooting, I was preparing to go to West Hollywood to partake in the Los Angeles Pride celebrations. As my husband and I stayed glued to the news, questioning whether or not it would be safe for us to go, news broke of another threat. This time in our own city, targeting the parade we were about attend. Luckily the authorities intervened before it was too late.

Immediately I decided we would stay home. Why risk it? But after a few hours of refreshing my Twitter feed and seeing all the loving messages of empathy and support pouring in from around the world, my husband and I felt compelled to go.

It was scary and daunting, driving down Santa Monica Boulevard that day. I felt like I might be sick, I was so nervous. But when we arrived to see thousands of people marching and celebrating, not discouraged by hate but brought together by love, I was grateful to be there. Tears welled behind my sunglasses as handmade signs supporting the victims of the Orlando shooting were everywhere I looked.

The solution to ending the senseless violence that continues to rock the U.S. is a simple one; a nation-wide ban on assault rifles. Period. I completely appreciate why some people are protective of the right to own a firearm. Again, I grew up around firearms and in no way am I anti-gun. But as many security experts, journalists, politicians and private citizens have pointed out in the wake of Orlando and San Bernardino and every other mass shooting that precedes these terrible events is that assault rifles are capable of one thing - killing on a massive scale. These are weapons that have no place in an otherwise safe and civil society.

The U.S. is a champion of freedom, ideals much of the developed world has adopted and benefited from. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of expression; I'm grateful to have grown up neighbouring a country that fully supports ones right to dream and become whomever they wish to be. Values that resonate strongly in Canada and around much of the world. But I wonder if a new freedom shouldn't be put forth for consideration. The freedom to feel safe and secure or the freedom to attend a community festival and not feel afraid.

Of all the moving tributes that have made headlines, gone viral, or taken over my news feeds in the past week, a reminder from TV host John Oliver rang true. While one person in Orlando took it upon himself to cause pain and anguish for so many, hundreds of kind, loving people stood in line waiting to donate blood in the wake of the shooting. Which was a comforting reminder that love will always outnumber hate. I like to think that either side of the gun debate shares this sentiment, and maybe that same sentiment will be what leads to a resolution, once and for all.

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