It’s time to make a change – on violence, guns and fear

It’s only Tuesday and it’s been a hard week already. Yesterday, a police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty in my hometown, at a place that we frequent, at a time that we are often there. My heart is broken for my friends on the police department who have lost a friend and colleague, for the family who has lost a husband and father, for all who loved him. It also struck home a bit too close for Me, sending me into a full-on anxiety attack, which left me unable to go out, or let M or Q leave either. 

I feel so helpless right now. 

We are living in a world where shootings have become almost commonplace, where it’s hard to feel safe going anywhere, not even church or out for lunch. I struggle with feelings of fear and anxiety each and every day that I kiss my boy and drop him off at school, or when I kiss my husband goodbye and see him off to work. When I hear on the radio or on Twitter that there has been a car accident, I have to do a mental scan of where everyone is, or should be, and if I don’t know, I have to text or call and make sure they are okay.

What happened to our world that so many of us no longer feel safe? 

Why does the need and desire to carry a weapon for any reason other than hunting, legitimate work (law enforcement, armoured car drivers, etc) or serious personal safety concerns (in the case of a concealed carry weapon) even exist? Why does someone’s “right” to carry a weapon “just because they can” trump someone else’s need to feel safe?

We in North America have this weird fascination with guns and gun culture. 

To many, they are a sign of status. To others, something they have at home “just in case”. To even more still though, they are something that is never going to be used, and are being purchased and stockpiled just because they can. I’m thankful that this is far less of a case in Canada than it is our neighbours to the south, but we are not immune from the violence either.

Some days I honestly have the urge to pack up my family, our pets and our belongings and just leave. 

I long to be somewhere that guns aren’t “cool” or “sexy” or used so damn much. I want to feel safe driving down the street, not fearing that there will be some gang-banger pulling a gun on, or blasting away at, the car next to me on the road. I want to feel safe visiting the movie theatre and not feel the need to scan the crowd, watching with baited breath each time someone gets up from their seat or walks across the theatre. I want my child to not have to grow up doing lockdown drills at school, because who the hell thinks it’s ok to walk into a school, a church, anywhere and start shooting at CHILDREN?

I know that a lot of this stems from my own struggles with anxiety, and I’m working on it, but I truly believe that we all also have the right to feel safe when we are outside of our homes too. 

I hate having to mentally map safe zones and exits when we go to a mall, or plan for what to do if we are ever in a car and gunshots ring out.

I am sick and tired of people thinking that they are entitled to carry around illegal weapons and use them on innocent people JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN.

Now before you start accusing me of not knowing that of which I speak, remember this. I spent nearly a decade in the Army Reserves, and more than that in a law enforcement position that required firearms training. I’m not some uneducated yahoo just spouting off about stuff I know nothing about. In the right circumstances, firearms have their place. Hunting, sure, as long as it’s not people. Competitive shooting, biathlon, sure. But for just anyone? Nope, sorry.

It is harder to get a drivers license than it is to get a gun. 

Think about that. Here, there is a graduated licensing program here that takes a minimum of 2 years. If you had to go through the same process to get a gun, you’d have to take a test to get a learner’s permit. You’d be restricted on the type of firearm, when and how you could use it, be required to only use it in the presence of an experienced firearms user, have the permit for a minimum of 2 years time, during which you could have no infractions, then be able to demonstrate both written and practical knowledge, a test that you could fail. You would have to prove actual competence in using it by taking to the range and showing that you can actually safely handle, operate and use the weapon. 

Our current system is like getting your drivers license without ever actually driving the car. 

You could demonstrate that you know how to turn the turn signals off and on, know where the brake pedal is and that the gas is on the right, that you can shift into drive and use the emergency brake. You can even demonstrate that you know how to open the gas tank and can hook up a gas pump. But without driving it, there is absolutely no way that you can demonstrate that you can safely and competently operate it. It’s all theoretical.

Ridiculous, right?

So why is it ok to treat another deadly machine like that? We need to make it harder for people who shouldn’t have firearms, who have exactly zero business owning them, from getting a hold of them in the first place. We need to accept that things aren’t like they were in “the good ole days” and that people no longer need to arm themselves for fear of some unknown enemy storming across the borders. In trying to make ourselves safer, we have gone and done the exact opposite. 

Something needs to change, and until we feel comfortable and safe speaking out about this, nothing ever will. 

I know I have had these thoughts many times, but I’ve always been too scared or intimidated by what other people might think or say to actually speak out. But no more. I’m not anti-gun, but I am anti gun culture. We need to take our cues from countries where mass shootings and illegal firearms aren’t an issue. We need to take our ideas from places where children don’t have to do lockdown drills at school in Kindergarten, where people can be safe in church or a mall or movie theatre. I’m not saying that violence doesn’t happen in other places, because I know full well that it does, but in the other first world countries conparable to ours here in North America, it is not nearly the issue. 

There has been enough heartbreak for ten lifetimes. 

It’s time to make a change. We need to start the conversation on how that is going to happen, but until you, and I, and everyone we know and love is prepared and willing to do that, it’s not going to. So let’s start talking, okay? Let’s put our heads together, really get to the root of these problems and find ways to make things better. 


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