I started the morning of Thursday, February 15 by waking up, having a cup of tea and two slices of peanut butter on toast, and watching a hockey game.
Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Before I watched the game, I watched just enough Olympic coverage to learn that Canada had won its fourth gold medal – this one in men’s short-track speed skating – to help push our overall count to 13, or third overall, by lunchtime.
So, before sitting down to write this column, I was sipping Red Rose from a Canadian-flag mug in my housecoat and slippers, watching my fellow Canadians do the hard work halfway around the world.
Oh, sure, I enjoyed it. But it still struck me as being entirely too comfortable, especially when I turned to the news channels and was given several sobering reminders of how Thursday morning started in the United States.
It wasn’t a typical morning in Parkland, Florida. I can’t imagine that many Parkland residents got a good night’s sleep in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left at least 17 dead and 14 seriously injured the day before.
Try to picture a Thursday morning that begins with grieving parents making funeral arrangements, horrified students wondering how they could have lost their friends and classmates in a matter of minutes, or doctors and nurses working feverishly to save the lives of survivors.
Put yourself in the place of police officers who began their Thursday morning trying to figure out how former MSDHS student Nicholas Cruz got his hands on the automatic weapon that unleashed such carnage less than 24 hours earlier. Remember that many of these officers spent Wednesday trying to capture this same 19-year-old while protecting others from becoming part of the rising death toll.
We can’t be comfortable while that reality is unfolding on a Thursday morning anywhere in the world, let alone the nation closest to our borders.
We can’t be comfortable with the fact that the Valentine’s Day horror that unfolded in southern Florida was the eighteenth shooting at an American school since New Year’s Day. We can’t be comfortable with the concept of gun violence occurring at a U.S. school once every 60 hours. And we certainly can’t be comfortable with the fact that injuries or deaths only occurred at 10 of these shootings (including two suicides). One is too many.
And yet, despite that reality – that one death in a school, or anywhere else, is too many – the sobering statistics pile up and come close to paralyzing me.
Since the deadliest day of gun-related school violence in U.S. history occurred in late 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been 1,607 mass shootings in America – happening an average of 72 days apart – with at least 1,846 people killed.
To put that number in perspective, imagine 60 per cent of Port Hawkesbury’s population suddenly disappearing. Or the combined population of St. Peter’s, River Bourgeois and L’Ardoise. Gone. Just like that.
Feeling uncomfortable yet?
Now, I’m sure I’ve already lost some of our readers who fear I’m launching an anti-firearms crusade and trying to paint law-abiding gun owners as criminals. I’m not; I don’t have anything against hunters. (I’m related to several hunters, including my parents.)
But I certainly can’t sit on a smug soapbox and tut-tut my American neighbours about dangerous use of illegal weaponry when my own province accounts for one of the single biggest increases in restricted and prohibited firearms across Canada. The 2017 report from the RCMP’s commissioner of firearms confirms that the number of restricted weapons rose by 8.8 per cent in Nova Scotia over the previous year. (The highest jump – 10.4 per cent – happened in Newfoundland and Labrador; the national increase of restricted and prohibited weapons rose 0.5 per cent during that same period and now sits at over 1.12 million.)
A growing number of Canadians aren’t comfortable with this. In December, Ekos Research Associates released a poll suggesting that 69 per cent of Canadians wanted an outright ban on guns in urban areas.
Surprisingly, this figure spread across party lines, with the concept of an urban firearms ban even drawing support from 56 per cent of those who identified themselves as Conservatives. So even the party that took great glee in dismantling our national long-gun registry and openly courted gun owners during its leadership race a year ago is getting uncomfortable with unmonitored firearms ownership.
We can’t allow gun violence to become the new normal, on either side of the border. Otherwise, the uncomfortable Thursday mornings are going to become even more common – and come even closer to our own doorstep.