Monday, 18 July 2016


I am trying to wrap my understanding around the idea that Americans want guns because they are afraid. This is surely the only explanation for the firearms advocates in the United States continuing their opposition to any kind of control on guns after what we have experienced over the past week in gun violence and unnecessary, tragic deaths.

I live in a rural area south of Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Ottawa is a small city as capital cities go and surrounded by parks and open, recreational area. A few years ago one of the local papers carried a story about an American tourist who was afraid to walk in one of these parks because he did not have his gun (Americans cannot bring them over the border into Canada) and did not feel safe. I recall shaking my head at the time, as this seemed to be such a bizarre attitude. The only time I or anyone I know worries about guns is during the November hunting season when there may be some drunken or idiotic lout who could mistake me for a deer.

When we lived in the city, the chance of being shot by some madman or getting mixed up in a gang war were so diminishingly small that you might as well worry about being hit by lightning. Both possible but unlikely. Why? Because the only guns around belonged legally to police and hunters and illegally to the criminal elements we have always with us. Before there were guns, the same type of lawless yobs carried coshes and knives and suchlike, I am quite sure. Canadians are not hung up about the right to bear arms. And because it is not a big deal, we don’t have a lot of gun crime.

Yes, we have gangs and they shoot each other and innocent bystanders once and a while. Yes, some of the urban police use weapons inappropriately and we have had a few panic shootings by law enforcement officers. Yes, we have had law enforcement officers shot by nuts. Twice, in recent memory. Both times the shooters had legally acquired weapons,I think . But not assault weapons. Our radical attacker on Parliament Hill had a weapon that he used to shoot and kill a soldier from behind, but it was not a high powered rifle. He couldn’t get one.

 Most Canadians except the police do not think about guns at all, outside of being a little careful on hikes in the first two weeks of November.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be constantly in fear of being shot. I cannot imagine how police can do their job rationally and reasonably when anyone, anytime, could be armed and dangerous. That too many policemen believe that black Americans are more dangerous than white ones is sad and sickening and terrible. Yes, it is hell for the poor cops to be constantly expecting some black criminal to pull a gun. But for the 99 out of 100 law-abiding and reasonable black Americans who have to live in fear of every police interaction, life must be hell too.

Because anyone can carry a gun or have one stashed to hand, everyone has to be afraid of guns. What a horrible, endless circle. What a mess.


  1. Well put. It's very puzzling for non-Americans and even for many Americans.

  2. Hello. American here. I do not live in constant fear and I do not own a gun, nor do I envision a time when I will. No one in my family--immediate or extended--owns one, either. We live in suburbs of Cleveland, current host city of the Republican National Convention, where that party will go on to (sadly) name You Know Who as their nominee for President Of The United States.

    Cleveland has also seen, in the past month, an uptick in the number of shootings. So I do understand the overall perception of the USA as a hugely Gun-Crazed Nation. There are times that I think we are, and it makes me sick that personal firearm rights seem to be more of a priority than other more pressing humane concerns.

    Like Education, Poverty, and Healthcare.

    But not every American is an Urban Cowboy or Vigilante Gangster. (As I'm sure you know.) A large segment of Americans "want guns" not because they are afraid; they want them because they have a legal right to have them. And if the law says so, then, by heaven, they are going to have them. Period. And if the law says they are allowed up to thirty guns, then they will have the limit. And if the law says X Number Of Rounds Per Gun, then that is exactly what they will have at all times.

    It is ridiculous.

    But it is Not All Of Us. And certainly Not Me.

  3. Nance, sorry. I overstated. See AC's comment above yours. It would go counter to everything I know of you to envision you as gun people. But your point that other nations envision you as a gun-hungry nation is the point I was trying to make.
    I get the impression that 'the right to bear arms', as you point out, is of extreme importance. Does this go right back to Revolutionary days? Unfortunately it seems from my perspective that this 'right' has gone completely out of control. I guess I was thinking more of the police and a lot of so-called Republicans when I talked about the fear. I cannot imagine being a city cop in a lot of your cities. When I was a girl, the police in the city where I lived did not carry guns. Unfortunately that city was across a river from Detroit, and the guns came over the border as did the criminals carrying them, and our police carried also.
    It does make me wonder, however, what a lot of the folk who want guns think they are going to do with them.
    And I think both you and AC will agree that a lot of your law enforcement people are scared. So are some of the Canadian police, and with reason.

    1. Mary--Not being part of a Gun Culture growing up, I'm not sure I can truly speak to just why anyone feels the Need to own/carry/have a gun. Some people spout the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, but there are lots of things in the Constitution that US citizens don't feel the need to manifest openly in everyday life. Why guns are such a big effing deal, I will never understand.

      I took marksmanship as a phys ed class in college and became a certified marksman as a result (.22 rifle). Did it make me want to own a gun? No. Did I take it because I liked guns? No. I took it because it required no gym uniform and no sweating and no outdoorsy-ness. Period.

      I do agree that there is fear on both sides of The Blue Line. There are, quite simply in my opinion, too damned many guns. I don't for a moment believe that the answer to the gun problem is More Guns. Ever. And I knew that after the massacre of more than 20 elementary school children in Newtown, when not one step was taken toward common sense gun legislation in the US, nothing would ever be done in that regard, ever.

      My point is, however, that while the US's character might be seen as Gun Crazed, not all of its people are. And, as you said correctly, I am one of the Sane Ones.

  4. It is difficult for British people to visualise the use of guns by the average person. When you think how angry some people get...... road rage, arguments, drinking seems madness to allow such people to have a gun in their hands, not forgetting the mentally unbalanced.
    No, I'll never understand citizens who carry guns. Glad we don't!
    Good post.
    Maggie x