There is, not surprisingly, a considerable flap surrounding the charges against a retired U.S. Army sergeant major over an undeclared handgun.
Louis DiNatale said he and his wife were travelling from Kentucky to Vermont when his GPS led him to the border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge. There, Canada Border Services Agency officers found a loaded handgun in his car, detaining him for four days last fall and leaving him to face gun-smuggling charges.
DiNatale said he simply forgot the gun was in the car, that there was no intended deception. His Canadian lawyer calls the incident an overreaction on the part of the border agency.
That’s likely so, but the incident – which has been fodder for the National Rifle Association and host of gun-related online forums in the U.S. – demonstrates one of the major points of difference between our country and that to the south. Guns are a big part of the culture in the U.S. Here, that’s not the case.
A seemingly endless stream of mass shootings, even the heinous events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, have done nothing to boost gun control measures. With every incident, some people call for further restrictions on gun ownership. On the other side of the argument, gun advocates argue for greater access to guns, saying armed civilians could have gunned down such criminals before their killing sprees continued.
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The latter arguments are commonplace in the U.S., where second amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – issues abound. In Canada, the notion seems ridiculous: having more guns at hand increases the risk. It would be far more likely for someone to see red, snap and use a readily available gun than it would be for someone to be faced with a murderer on a shooting rampage.
A study last year found that the U.S. has 88 guns per 100 people and 10 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people — more than any of the other 27 developed countries they studied.
Japan, on the other hand, had only 0.6 guns per 100 people and 0.06 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, making it the country with both the fewest guns per capita and the fewest gun-related deaths. Canada’s numbers were 30.8 and 2.4. respectively.
Those kind of statistics depict a major difference between our neighbouring cultures.
Not, of course, that we’re immune from such tragedies.
Still, we operate under a different mindset than do those in the States, where politicians must be pro-gun, or at least not come out in favour of gun control. That kind of thinking would not fly here: even the gun registry debate was more about waste, graft and rightwing ideology than about the guns themselves.
U.S. ownership accounts for almost a third of all the guns in the world. American guns don’t just kill Americans – they fuel the illegal gun trade and gun violence worldwide. At least half of the illegal handguns recovered in Canada and 80 per cent of crime guns in Mexico had their origin in the U.S.
Like our different take on health care, gun control is a major differentiator between Canadians and Americans. The opposing views on the two issues, more than anything else, illustrates the divide between our countries – no matter how much we support our American cousins, most of us want to keep those differences in place, believing they make us a better place to live.