They Could Never Have Imagined It Could Happen Here
by Cynthia Lehman, Board Member, God Before Guns
I have always thought of Nova Scotia as a peaceful, beautiful place. My parents visited there years ago, and my mother fell in love with Peggy’s Cove, a spot my sister checked off her bucket list 2 years ago. On 9/11, people whose planes were diverted to Nova Scotia when all flights were grounded, found it a warmly welcoming place, and still hold fond memories of the area and friendships with the people. Now, with 22 people dead along with the man who gunned them down, it is the site of the largest mass shooting in Canadian history. Residents of this peaceful place lament that they could never have imagined it would happen here.
After every shooting at a school, workplace, house of worship, store, concert or home, someone laments that no one could imagine it would happen here. How could we consciously imagine it and continue to function every day? Yet, in our heart of hearts, we know that with over 100 deaths every day at the wrong end of a gun barrel, we could be the next victim.
While most gun deaths in the United States are suicides, far too many people die as a result of domestic violence, being caught in the crossfire of a drive-by, being the co-worker of a frustrated employee, being the victim of someone who needs to prove his worth or does not know how to handle his anger or who wants 15 minutes of fame. Despite the common notion that gun violence is a mental health issue, those with mental health problems are far more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of gun violence. It is our romance with the gun that is the driver of this epidemic.
We have embraced the romance of the wild west where guns were the supposed arbiter of right and wrong. We have embraced the romance of the good guy with the gun. What we don’t question, until innocent people die, is what ensures that someone will be a good guy? Not everyone who shoots in “self-defense” is a good guy. Sometimes the gun used in “self-defense” kills an innocent person of color who “appeared suspicious.” Sometimes the gun used in “self-defense” kills a family member who is mistakenly identified as an intruder. Having a gun in the home means we are more likely to die from gun violence. That is a fact that we need to recognize and consider carefully whenever we purchase a gun. One of the most shocking statistics to me is that we are more likely to be shot by a toddler who finds an unsecured gun than we are to be killed by a terrorist. Yet, we have an inordinate fear of terrorists rather than a healthy fear of gun violence.
While having a gun might make us feel less vulnerable, the statistics don’t support that notion of invincibility. Those who understand this false security believe that a gun, like any other object that we purchase, needs to be made as safe as possible, needs to be regulated, needs to be placed only in the hands of those who understand it, respect it, and are trained in how to use it and how to avoid misuse. Cribs, toys, cars, machines of all sorts, food, medications, electrical equipment, most of the things we use daily, are regulated for safety. The gun lobby has effectively prevented the regulation of guns and that is not only absurd, it is dangerous.
Regulating guns and gun ownership is part of being a responsible society, one that is dedicated to protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No responsible gun owner would desire anything less. No responsible gun owner would be willing to allow this public health crisis to continue.