The recent shootings at an outdoor party in Toronto and a crowded theatre in Colorado at a viewing of The Dark Knight have highlighted the poor understanding many well intentioned people have of the connection between guns and violence.
One of the reasons that James Holmes, the alleged mass murderer in Colorado, was able to gun down 12 people and injure 59 others is that no law abiding citizen in the theatre had their own gun to shoot him dead. His murder spree could not have been as successful without the rest of the people in the theatre being defenceless. Colorado has a concealed carry law -- meaning citizens may carry concealed weapons so long as they have a permit to do so. Sadly, the only armed person in the theater that night was Holmes.
In the wake of the shootings in Toronto, many politicians and pundits have automatically blamed the availability of handguns for the senseless violence almost as though the guns themselves are possessed by evil spirits.
It is perhaps in our nature in these situations to look for easy answers, and by easy, I do not mean those that are the easiest to believe or understand, but rather the easiest to discuss in public or promise to concerned citizens.
Shootings in Toronto must be caused therefore by some combination of guns, lack of social programs and poverty. Despite the fact that such a notion is a slander on the poor, most of who are upwardly mobile and eventually free themselves from poverty's embrace.
Blaming society for a lack of social programs that encourage children to be productive and decent human beings suggests a sense of entitlement that presumes other people responsible for raising the children of strangers. Such programs are useful and I support their existence, but the State is a broadsword, not a scalpel. It will never be as capable of molding the family unit as parents or relatives. If it takes a "village" to raise your children don't be surprised when the children disappear.
The responsibility for the deaths of Joshua Yasay, 23, and Shyanne Charles, 14, murdered senselessly on the streets of Scarborough rests solely in the hands of their murderous killers and the constituent parts of their broken family homes.
The madman in Aurora, Colorado, who purportedly believed he was "The Joker," was pervious to his infamy, a medical student with nothing but a traffic ticket on his record. Any blanket law prohibiting him from gun ownership would also prohibit perfectly law abiding citizens from purchasing firearms. If he was determined to commit his massacre, and his explosives laden apartment suggests he was, he would have been able to obtain weapons regardless of what the law proscribed. Criminals do not follow rules, and when they do we call them something else -- bankers.
It is important for people to understand that stories where a gun is used in an act of aggression and someone dies make news. Stories in which guns save lives or protect people and their property are significantly less interesting to audiences, even though some estimates place such encounters as occurring as often as two million times a year in the United States.
Everyone wants to take guns away from criminals, but people need to have a rear view of history that stretches back further than the last five seconds, the last five years or even the last 50. History teaches us that in places you would not want to live; Uganda under Idi Amin, Germany under Adolf Hitler or Cambodia under Pol Pot, citizens were disarmed before they were destroyed. This is real history.
There must be reasonable accommodation made between the robust ability of citizens to maintain arms and screening mechanisms to limit the purchase of weapons by criminals and the unfit. The overriding problem in Toronto, Canada and Aurora, Colorado this past week were madmen with guns, not guns in the hands of men.
Let's hope these tragedies are a wake-up call for movement in the right direction, not simply the one with the least resistance.