This is the Life: The killings go on

Web Lead

“A federal law enforcement official said investigators knew where at least two of the guns had been purchased, and suggested that they were bought recently, but would not say where or precisely when. Another law enforcement official said that information investigators had obtained about the purchase of the AR-15 rifle indicates that it was bought locally and apparently legally, as were the other guns, adding, ‘There’s nothing nefarious there,’ ” — from a New York Times article about the Batman movie killer.

I posted that quote on my personal Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, adding the comment, “The dead and wounded will be relieved to know the guns were all purchased legally. He followed the rules to become a mass murderer exactly as they are laid out in American law.”

On Monday, the day this column was written, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an American organization, was quoted in the Huffington Post:

“The gunman in Oak Creek, 40 year-old neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page, had much in common with other recent mass shooters. He used a semiautomatic firearm with high-capacity ammunition magazines. And he was able to purchase his guns and ammo legally despite a personal history replete with red flags. Page was an army veteran who had been discharged under less than honorable conditions. He had a criminal history. Most importantly, Page had been publicly involved in the White Power movement since 2000. He was known to both federal law enforcement authorities and also anti-hate watch groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center. And this is just what we know after a few hours.

“This country deserves a firearm policy that prevents military-style hardware from falling into the hands of dangerous and deranged individuals. Our daily experience with gruesome violence is not inevitable. Let’s be clear: The repeated nature of these events is the direct result of the poor policy choices made by our elected leaders. Americans can solve big problems when they set their minds to it. Today is the day to start making these changes. We ask every American to call their elected representatives today and demand immediate reform. It’s long past time to stand up to the National Rifle Association and say, ‘Enough.’ ”

The U.S. doesn’t have a monopoly on what seems to be an increasing number of senseless killings, of course. But it has a gun culture that is likely impossible to break, and one that Canadians should be wary of.

A few weeks back, after two people were killed and many more injured in a Toronto shootout involving handguns, the Toronto Star weighed in:

“Toronto police estimate that about a third of the guns they seize come from domestic sources. The other two-thirds are smuggled into Canada from the United States. As of the end of May, there were almost 700,000 legally registered handguns in this country — a sizable arsenal waiting to be stolen by criminals. While this isn’t the main origin of their firepower, private collections represent a significant source that should be shut down.

“To that end, a nationwide handgun ban deserves a fresh look in the wake of the worst shooting spree in Toronto’s history. Unlike a shotgun or hunting rifle, a handgun has no practical use except to kill a human being. No wonder it’s the gangster’s weapon of choice. These weapons should have no place in Canadian society apart from police, the military, and a few top competitive shooters.

“Collectors and pistol enthusiasts complain such a ban, delivered under a mandatory federal buyback program, would end their freedom to pursue a handgun hobby. They’re right. But balanced against that is the freedom of innocent people to enjoy life without being cut down in a hail of pistol bullets.”

Since the federal Conservatives campaigned successfully to eliminate the long gun registry, I think there is a perception in Canada that citizens have chosen to tolerate a gun culture, one that puts individual rights ahead of society’s. While it is true we still don’t let people go out and buy handguns and automatic weapons, we aren’t having much of a discussion about what it means to live beside a country that provides a ready availability of such weapons by people who have little respect for the lives of others. It’s a conversation we should be having, before we begin to play catch-up with our neighbours to the south.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.