CC Flickr/byanthem

Bearing Arms

Friday, 21 December 2012 | Tags: ,

Like most other people, I've been glued to my news sources over the past week as I follow the horrific story in Newtown, Connecticut.

I keep hoping something will be uncovered to explain why such an evil and heinous act was committed.  But of course, with the shooter dead and gone, as well as his mother, and no note that we know of, we’ll probably be left in the dark.

One detail that jumped out at me, was the type of guns the assailant used.  One of them is reported to have been a Glock.  That’s a handgun (also known as America’s Gun).  The only reason I knew that is because just recently, I shot one myself.
I was in Las Vegas and went to a shooting range as part of a group event I was in on.  We shot from a whole range of arsenal, including assault rifles, a .44 Magnum and that Glock pistol.  Most of the guns were heavy, hard to handle and deafeningly loud.  The Glock on the other hand was light and the easiest vessel from which to deliver a bullet to the centre of the target hanging at the end of the shooting alley. Everyone in my group – men and women – seemed to derive some sort of rush from pulling the trigger.  Perhaps it came from the thrill of holding such a deadly weapon, the challenge of hitting the bullseye or just some weird sense of power.  When I think about it now, I feel cold.  And I look at the photograph of myself smiling next to the paper clown that was my target, gun in hand, and I feel a bit disgusted.
I’m glad I don’t live in a place where the right to bear arms is so deeply rooted in our identity. For me the idea of the right to own a gun is based on an antiquated idea of protecting my land, when 911 and densely populated neighbourhoods hadn’t yet come to pass.  That, and some misguided fear of the boogeyman coming to steal your stuff and a notion that society will eventually descend into neighbours attacking neighbours over a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of water.
According to various media outlets (the Globe and Mail, CBC news), almost 40 percent of guns in America are sold without a background check.  Forty percent!  But from Newtown to Aurora to Colombine and beyond preventing these atrocities cannot only lie in changing how easy it is to have a gun or at least a particular kind of gun.  But rather the fact that wherever we live, we as a part of a civilized society need to feel a deeper responsibility to act when someone is displaying troubling signs.  Do people just snap, without any warning signs? The experts say no. The killer in Connecticut must have done or said things to foreshadow what lay ahead.

Every foreign news organization covering the Newtown story is looking for a local connection, whether it’s because a victim lived in Winnipeg or because someone knew someone who knew someone who had some connection.  In my case, it’s simply shooting from that gun.  Frankly, it seemed an odd “attraction” to take part in at the time – but then again, I was in Vegas – but I’m quite certain I will never take part again.  I’m sure doing so would make me once again imagine the horror that took place at Sandy Hook elementary.

My heart goes out to everyone in Newtown and especially those who lost their loved ones.

Photo credit: CC Flickr/byanthem 

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  • Mom2Es

    Lots of Americans are still rural-dwellers. Thirty percent of Americans live in non-metropolitan areas. I’m not sure I’ve ever lived in what would be considered a “densely-populated neighbourhood.” It’s only very recently that I’ve lived where police could realistically arrive quickly in an emergency. Whether I agree with the methodology of the “Founding Fathers” or not, the reason the U.S. exists as a sovereign nation is because men took up weapons against their own government; the right to bear arms that they wrote into the Constitution was about more than just protection from wildlife.

    The Sandy Hook shooter only used the Glock on himself. Most gun control laws that people have postulated we “need” because of this atrocity either already exist or have nothing to do with the details of this crime and would not have stopped it. The weapons he used did not belong to him. He had tried to purchase his own gun and was turned away. The state where the shooting occurred has tight gun control laws. The school where the shooting occurred was a “gun-free zone.” As a matter of fact, they most often happen in areas where guns are not allowed. And, personally, the time when I’ve experienced the most brazen attitudes among criminals was when I lived in the U.K. and teenagers thought nothing of walking into someone’s house even if it was full of people just to see what they could grab. Once we were at church and a gang of miscreants waltzed in openly casing the place. It was horrid. They had no fear of anything or anyone.

    Guns are primarily a defensive weapon. If you really want to create carnage, there are better options. The worst mass murder in American history also targeted schoolchildren and did not involved fire, not guns. In a nutshell, I think the emphasis on the guns is misplaced. I have more to say, but I will have to save it for another comment.

    • TJ5270

      Mom2Es – Although I do not agree with you, I am very impressed with the case you make. Many of us who are from Canada, and grew up in Canada just simply can’t relate. For this I am incredibly thankful. I adore my country.

      Anna, thank you for this.

  • bluegrass69

    Sorry Mom2Es, but NO ONE needs to own an automatic assault weapon, period. They should be completely illegal and ammunition should not be available to the general public for those weapons. They are weapons of war, and, as such, should only be allowed to be in the hands of police and military. If this had been the case in Newtown, the shooter would only have had the Glock available from his mother. Considerably fewer children and adults may well have been saved from this person. So tell me, why did the mother have assault weapons in her home, especially knowing that she had a nutbar as a son?

    • Bob B

      Ah, more stupidity. FYI, automatic weapons are already illegal. The rifle is only called an “assault weapon” because of what Hollywood movies has told you. (actual “assault rifles” have been illegal since 1986)
      It is not a “weapon of war.” Again, that’s a misconception you learned from watching too many movies. The rifle (which are used in less than 3% of crimes) is a semi-automatic device. That’s it. It’s not an “assault rifle” even though it might look black & scary like an evil gun you saw in a war movie, and its not a “machine gun.” It’s also not “automatic.”

      So much misinformation and overly emotional people out there.

      • Eugen

        Most people have no true need for a weapon. In the US the number of accidental deaths by firearm is unbelievable. If memory serves, more people are now gun down than killed in automobile accidents!

        And don’t get me started on the asinine notions that some fools have put forward that if everyone was armed things like Sandy Hook wouldn’t have happened. Anyone who espouses that belief is simply affirming their belief that their society is no longer civilized, that it has turned anarchic. And that’s a very sad statement to make about any country or civilization, let alone your own.

  • Mom2Es

    I would also point out that there have been attempted mass murders, including at a couple of schools I could name, that were prevented by armed citizens. And most of the ones I’m thinking about did not even require the defender to shoot; the act of confrontation was enough to stop the killing. But when a crime is stopped short it rarely makes national or international news. It’s not sensational enough because there’s not a crazy-high body count to report. And the news reports that do come out often use euphemisms or neglect to mention how the criminal was stopped. There was one in Virginia recently where the perpetrator was brought down by three other students; two of them with weapons. But the vast majority of the news reports simply said the crime was stopped by “former police officers.” Well, yes, two of them were former police officers, but they were there as students, not as cops.

    There are things we can do to attempt to improve society and help prevent similar events, but evil acts have always existed and will always be with us. There’s nothing we can do to 100% stop horrible crimes from happening again. I would encourage everyone to do more than just letting your hearts and thoughts go out to the victims. Find someone affected by this and do something to help them get their lives back to normal (that may seem impossible, but I’m amazed at how much I’ve been able to find through friend-of-a-friend-used-to-babysit-for-the-grandmother-of-a-child-at-the-school types of connections). Give money to one of the support funds that have been set up (some options here: Find someone who needs more help than they’re getting from whatever medical system they use, help them find what they need, and help them with the bills. Get involved with #26Acts. Do something to be the better person you want the world to have more of. And keep doing it; don’t wait for another big news story to do it again.

  • Eugen

    The horror that befell Newtown is unbelievable. The reaction of certain groups in the US is even more unbelievable.

    I fully understand why some hunters and some farmers need certain weapons such as hunting rifles and shotguns. I do not understand the odd US fascination, nay fetish, with weapons whose sole purpose is to kill other humans. Handguns and assault weapons, regardless of which cartridge it can take, has but one purpose: to kill another person. Those that are automatic in nature are designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible. They are weapons of terror. Those that support their general availability are purveyors of terror and destroyers of social fabric.

    In fact, what the NRA has espoused is nothing more than a blatant statement that they believe US society is broken, perhaps irreparably, and that the ONLY solution is to arm everyone. The fact that arming everyone is beyond stupid verging on the insane escapes many individuals who in normal conversation on other topics would be quite level headed. If we arm civilians we will only confuse any future horror by having the police unable to discern who is the “good guy” vs. the “bad guy”. It’s totally nuts.

    Furthermore, anyone who claims they need an automatic weapon to take down a deer or moose or whatever has no right to own a gun let alone go hunting. They are obviously incapable of humanely taking down an animal if they intend to spray it with bullets. With that type of attitude, why not head out with a howitzer? Bah.

    Finally, those that scream about it being unconstitutional to restrict gun ownership due to a misreading and miscomprehension of the 2nd Amendment and/or how the US Constitution works are only worsening an already bad situation. All rights declared within the US Constitution have limits. There are no unlimited rights although the gun lobby believes gun ownership should be unlimited. No American has total unrestricted free speech (check if you don’t believe me). Rights are circumscribed by societal expectations and norms. This has been repeatedly affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Thus, freedom of speech is limited by libel and slander laws, by the unlawfulness of yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theatre, etc. Gun ownership must similarly be circumscribed by reasonable restrictions, especially since those that drafted the 2nd Amendment never envisioned weapons of such capacity since the law was drafted during the age of the musket.

    I feel your pain, Anna, because I have many US friends who have wanted me to go to shooting ranges with them. I have always politely but firmly declined, though I have gone with them into gun shops only to shake my head in disbelief at the utter insanity of it all. I’m glad that for the most part that type of insanity doesn’t permeate the rest of the Western world.

    • Bob B

      It wasn’t an “automatic weapon.” This is misinformation.

      If you’re willing to gut the Second Amendment, what makes you think that the FIrst Amendment isn’t right behind? Since you’re bringing up the Supreme Court, keep in mind that multiple court decisions have affirmed the individual right to keep & bear arms. “Fire” in a crowded theatre is not illegal in itself, but you can be charged with inciting a panic. Just like you can be charged criminally for negligent firearm usage.
      The thing is, more bans & laws won’t prevent those bent on evil from carrying out their acts. Remember Oklahoma City? Not a single shot was fired.

      Your comment about “all they do is kill” is also incorrect. The ar-15 platform is the most commonly used sporting rifle for target shooting. Millions of them have been sold, and only maybe twice in the past 20 years has one been used in a “mass shooting.” (Aurora, although he only got off 3 rounds before jamming and then Newtown. That’s it.) It’s a common hunting rifle. It’s not a “machine gun” or an “assault rifle” by any reasonable definition, unless you’ve been watching more Hollywood movies. (Seriously, Congress is trying to ban stuff and they do not even know what it is!)

      Just pointing out some misinformation. cheers.

      • Eugen

        Just a couple of quick points.

        First, all rights have limitations. The rights to freedom of speech and expression are curtailed as outlined by various Supreme Courts in Canada, the US and other democratic jurisdictions. Somehow believing that the 2nd Amendment is the only right that should never be limited is ludicrous. According to some folks’ “logic” yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre should be allowed, after all it’s “free speech” or “freedom of expression”.

        Second, one may wish to believe that “target shooting” is a “sport” but I’ve really not met anyone who believes guns were invented for the purpose of skeet shooting. They were invented, perfected and built with a sole purpose in mind: killing. If someone wishes to believe otherwise they’re more than welcome to their fantasies and justifications, but a gun has a single, sole purpose: to kill. Besides, many “target shooters” that I’ve seen use human silhouettes which would imply the intention to kill a human.

        It saddens me that we even have to have these types of discussions. That something as life affirming as NASA gets cut after cut after cut yet anything to do with a gun gets more and more funding. It’s an upside down world. It puts the lie to those who claim we, as a species, have changed much these past few hundred years.