Gun control

The tide is finally turning against the NRA

How Canadians can help support tougher gun legislation in the U.S.
Photo: Fibonacci Blue

The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 students and staff dead and another 14 severely injured, is a horrifically tragic event. What’s perhaps most horrific is how the event marked the 18th school shooting this year alone and the 290th since 2013, and yet the U.S. government continues to do nothing to minimize the odds of a recurrence.

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Mass shootings like these, followed by the vacuous “thoughts and prayers” from politicians, and the doubling down of NRA pundits who are convinced that unfettered access to killing machines is their inalienable right — despite the U.S. having a gun homicide rate that is 25.2 times higher than in other developed countries — have, sadly, become so commonplace, so ordinary, and such a redundant exercise in frustration that the rest of the world barely pays attention anymore. Except, perhaps, to shake our heads in anger and to wonder what is broken about a country that values its gun laws more than its children’s safety.

How does a country where Kinder Surprise eggs are illegal because the toy inside is deemed a choking risk for children justify guns as untouchable? Even an FBI report issued almost 20 years ago concluded that the number one risk factor for school violence was “easy access to guns,” yet protectors of the vaunted Second Amendment, in a desperate act of cognitive dissonance, will point the finger at everything and anything but guns. Why? Because of the NRA.

According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, during the 2016 election the NRA spent $54 million to secure Republican control of the White House and Congress, including at least $30 million to help elect Donald Trump. The NRA may claim to represent gun owners, but don’t be fooled; it mostly represents the interests of gun manufacturers.

After the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adults dead, didn’t result in any concrete legislative changes, most of us developed a fatalistic approach to the issue. We resigned ourselves to this being the new normal.

But then something happened. Once the latest batch of fresh-faced teen survivors wiped their tears and attended funerals for classmates and friends, they got angry. Really angry. The kind of righteous anger that fuels movements, asks the right questions, and holds decision-makers’ feet to the fire. With intelligence, eloquence, and conviction, they started using their voices and online platforms to call politicians and the NRA out and demand action now. For the first time in a long time, I feel hope.

If, like me, you’re a concerned Canadian, standing on the sidelines, observing the infuriating inaction and excuses of NRA-bought politicians, watching as most of our illegal guns enter via the U.S., and yelling “Wake up!” like Scott Moir did to the refs during the Olympic women’s hockey final, here’s how you can help.

Participate in or donate to upcoming protests

There are two major planned events taking place to demand action from Congress: The National School Walkout on March 14 and March for Our Lives on March 24. Like the Women’s March last year, sister marches in solidarity will be taking place around the U.S. and the world — including Canada. For a list of events you can consult this Facebook page. If you can’t participate, both these organizations welcome donations.

Lend your support on social media

Those who scoff at hashtag activism would do well to ask the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements how effective digital activism can be in spreading a vital message to the masses. Public pressure and shaming work. Follow #NeverAgain, #GunReformNow, #MarchForOurLives, #NationalSchoolWalkout, and #StudentsStandUp for the latest news, developments and initiatives. Retweet.

Follow Shannon Watts on Twitter. The founder of Moms Demand, a grassroots organization working hard for the past five years to end gun violence, Watts promotes a five-step action plan to kick out lawmakers beholden to the gun lobby. Share it with your friends and family in the U.S.

Boycott those in business with the NRA

There are many corporations, like Hertz, FedEx, and Avis, that offer incentives to NRA members in the form of discounts. Think Progress has created a list and is updating it daily. Ethical consumers can choose not to give their business to these corporations. In addition, they can make sure not to buy stocks in gun companies.

Raise awareness about the benefits of our gun laws

While no legislation is perfect, the reality is that Canada’s strict gun laws and our overall attitudes towards guns have made this a much safer country. From RCMP screenings for risk factors, to a mandatory Canadian Firearms Safety Course, gun ownership simply isn’t easy here — which directly limits mass shootings. The same applies in the U.K., Australia, Japan, Germany and other countries where strict gun laws exist.

When it comes to political party financing in Canada, no person, organization or company is permitted to give more than $1,500 in campaign contributions to any political party or politician. Campaign finance reform is one way of neutering the NRA. Write an op-ed or letter to a U.S. newspaper, and let Americans know there are ways to increase safety and decrease NRA meddling.

Don’t take gun legislation in Canada for granted

Finally, keep an eye on our own domestic affairs. The Conservative Party of Canada and its leader Andrew Scheer have made it no secret that they would work towards weakening Canada’s gun laws, launch a review of the criminal code and repeal all federal regulations pertaining to firearms ownership, if they had the chance. In his gun policy, Scheer proposes diminishing the power of the RCMP to make reclassifications and put restrictions on magazines, replacing these police powers with “a system based on advice and input from firearms associations.” Some Conservatives, such as Maxime Bernier last year, would even make the AR-15 — the gun used in the Parkland shooting — more accessible. While I’m sure the NRA sees our country as an untapped market, attempts to loosen our gun laws are a sign of U.S. politics coming north, and most of us aren’t interested.

The NRA and its apologists can argue semantics all they want, they can deflect with idiotic solutions like Trump’s suggestions about arming untrained civilians and teachers with guns, but the fact remains: someone wanting to kill a lot of people at once will likely use an automatic weapon. Placing hurdles in front of their path is a surefire way (pun intended) to limit their damage and save lives.

For the first time in a long time, it feels like public pressure is mounting for something to finally be done. As Canadians, we can do our part to add to that pressure.

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