After a punch to the heart, the realization of an apocalyptic tragedy, there is time for shock, grieving, for prayer and, eventually, time for reflection and expressions of remorse, despair, hope and deliberation. So, as the window for meaningful reform opens ever briefly, gun-control advocates like me must be forgiven for premature public diagnoses and prescriptions.
I’m from Canada, and live in a city about the size of Chicago. The societal makeup of Toronto is similar to any big American city: a mix of very rich, very poor, a shrinking middle class and about 15 per cent of the population share an affliction that can be dangerous. That 15 per cent are mentally ill or drug addicts or alcoholics, capable of irrational rage and literally senseless behaviour. Give them an explosive or a machete or some pool acid or a gun, and there will be a greater chance of a tragedy.
I’m a recovering alcoholic, a former attorney general of Canada’s largest province and a Harvard-trained lawyer who recently published a book on how any life can change in an instant. I spend a lot of time with recovering drug addicts and alcoholics and with people who have been classified, in their lifetime, as psychotic.
Here’s what I think.
Too many guns equal too many funerals. Fewer guns, fewer funerals. In Toronto, there have been about 50 homicides this year. It’s likely Chicago will exceed 500 homicides this year. When asked how that could be, Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy stated the obvious: gun control.
Put aside for the moment that the Conservative government of Canada recently did away with the registry for “long guns.” The bottom line is that thanks to limitations on who can own a gun, what guns citizens can own and where the guns are kept, there are a lot fewer guns in Canada. There are about 30 guns per 100 people in Canada. In the U.S., there are almost as many guns as people: 88 guns per 100 people.
So gun control is risk management. More guns, more funerals. Lots more guns, lots more funerals.
This doesn’t explain what happened in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. But if the U.S. wants to lower the risk of another tragedy like the one in Newtown, it ought to institute more limitations on who can own a gun, how many, what kinds and where the guns are stored.
Fewer guns, fewer funerals. That’s the lesson from Canada, anyway.
My condolences to everyone.
Michael Bryant, born and raised in Greater Victoria, instituted a series of anti-gun measures during his tenure as attorney general of Ontario from 2003 to 2007. He wrote this for the Chicago Tribune.