By Jim Poling Sr.
From Shaman’s Rock
This is the golden time; the best days of the year.
Sparkling sunbeams spill from a brilliant blue sky. Golden bronze and crimson leaves catch them, then lose their weakening autumn grip and flutter to the forest floor.
It is prime time for walking the woods and breathing in the gifts of Nature’s beauty.
It also is hunting season so I walk with a shotgun, although I have no intention of using it. It is an old Winchester 12-gauge featherweight, long-barrelled and pump action.
It was my dad’s duck gun, too heavy-duty for small game in the woods. I carry it not for hunting game, but for memories. Memories are more plentiful than partridge or rabbits.
There’s the memory of dad’s smile as he pumped spent cartridges from the Winchester and watched three mallards fall into a Northwestern Ontario pond. And, the blow to my shoulder the time he showed me how to shoot.
Sadly, those memories are being pushed aside by facts about how guns are changing our society. The times of guns as part of our heritage are disappearing into the chaos of gun violence.
Gun violence has been increasing steadily in Canada. Statistics Canada reports that criminal use of firearms increased 81 per cent between 2009 and 2019. There were 7,700 victims of crime involving firearms in Canada during 2017, the most recent year for which there are statistics.
Toronto is the epicentre of gun crime, registering 462 of what police call ‘firearms events’ in 2020. Those events saw 217 people shot and killed or injured.
U.S. figures collected by the Gun Violence Archive are even more shocking. Gun violence is so rampant there that the place should be labelled a third world country.
So far this year there have been roughly 34,000 gun deaths in the United States. Another 31,000 people have been wounded. Those figures include 535 mass shootings and 22 mass murders.
By year’s end there will have been between 85,000 and 90,000 shooting deaths and woundings in the U.S.
Children are not being spared. Gun violence became the leading cause of death of American children ages one to 19 in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A year later, nine children and teens were killed with guns each day – a total of 3,371 young deaths by guns for 2019.
It is estimated that guns now kill more American children and teens than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, HIV/AIDs, and opioids combined.
The figures keep climbing but many American politicians resist making laws to control the gun madness. Some, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, a presidential hopeful, try but can’t get the needed support.
“If a mysterious virus suddenly started killing eight of our children every day, America would mobilize teams of doctors and public health officials,” Warren wrote in her 2014 book A Fighting Chance. “We would move heaven and earth until we found a way to protect our children. But not with gun violence.”
Gun sales in the states have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the first official month of the pandemic, nearly two million guns were sold in 31 days, the second highest number of guns sold in a single month.
Americans now own roughly 400 million firearms, compared with 5.5 million possessed by U.S. military and law enforcement agencies. Nearly one in five firearms are sold without background checks, which are not required for sales at gun shows, online or between private persons.
Canada has significant controls on guns, but few over the factors that help to create gun violence. U.S. and Canadian geography and culture are so tightly tied together that what happens there often develops here.
There is growing demand in both countries that something be done about gun violence. It’s not likely that anything will be done soon in the U.S. but certainly there is a growing demand in Canada for politicians to do even more.
What worries me is that when our politicians do more to control guns, they usually end up with more restrictions on lawful gun owners, while criminals continue to get more guns for more crimes against society.
Watching all this I fear that our gun heritage soon will be just a memory.