Not Guns. Not Mental Health. It’s Fear.

Posted by on June 20, 2016

I have a tendency to keep some of the more controversial topics off my blog because I really don’t feel like getting into a debate with trolls on the internet who insist that they know everything. But, once in awhile I feel compelled to write out my own feelings. With yet another mass shooting down in the US, I’m taking a few minutes to write out what I have been thinking about this for a long time.

As a Canadian with many American friends, I am in a position where I know a lot of people who live down there and have to deal with this kind of thing all the time. I also happen to know that for the most part, the people I do know that live down there are really nice, really great people. They feel just like the folks I know back home. But the reality is, the culture in the United States is definitely different than those of us from Canada and it can clearly be seen when the whole gun debate thing comes up.

Since this last shooting, again Facebook is flooded with a ton of people writing about their opinion on gun control and making it safer for people to live. I have an acquaintance who loves guns and went on a bit of a rant on Facebook about how guns are not the problem and that people should have a right to own whatever gun they want and that people only blame guns because they want to spread fear and so on and so on. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn his attitude was that of the pro-gun folks from the USA. But, none the less, he’s entitled to his opinion and I have mine.

So let’s take both sides of this equation.

Side 1: Pro-Gun Control

The folks who say guns are the problem say that if you remove the gun from the equation, the likelihood of mass killings like this  will go down. I actually agree completely. If the shooter did not have access to a weapon like he had, a lot less people would have been killed in that moment. Sure, he could still have gone out and killed people, but the ease at which he would have been able to do so would have been reduced. You cannot tell me that someone without a gun can kill 50 people as easily as they can with an assault rifle like the one that was used. Yes, there are plenty of ways to kill human beings, many of which you can look up online, but beyond a bomb, none of them are as effective at mass killing as a gun. Any gun.

If something had been done to prevent a gun from getting into the hands of the shooter, a lot less people would be dead, in my opinion.

An argument made against gun-control is that it doesn’t stop criminals from obtaining guns. I agree completely. But what it does do is make it harder for the criminals to obtain those guns. No criminal is going to obtain a gun legally. But where exactly do you think these criminals obtain their guns? They steal them, or they buy them from people who do steal them. And guess where they steal them from? They steal them from people who have access to them legally, or buy them illegally from people who have legal access to them. So one way or another, at some point in the supply chain there’s someone who has legal access to those kinds of weapons and then they end up in the hands of those who would misuse them. If you make it impossible, or very difficult to obtain those weapons in a legal manner, then it hurts the supply chain of the criminal manner. One goes hand in hand with the other.

Side 2: Pro-Gun

The folks who are pro-gun (in the USA mainly) say that the gun is not the problem but the person holding the gun is. The gun doesn’t kill someone, a person does. They claim that it’s a mental health issue and that those who end up with these weapons are sick and need mental assistance. Now, I could buy into that if it were true in all nations where guns can be acquired but that’s not the case. Many nations in the world allow people to own weapons or have criminal elements that allow access to weapons but the amount of mass shootings and deaths by gun are staggeringly low compared to the USA. You can’t claim it’s a mental health issue when the issue doesn’t exist anywhere else.

The only way mental health is the issue is if it’s something unique to the USA that’s causing the mental illness. For me, this is where I side with my own version of what is the real cause of the problem.

Side 3: Fear

I believe that the “mental health” issue that exists in the USA has nothing to do with people being insane and going on a killing spree and everything about simply being afraid.

“The right to bear arms” seems to come up a lot when these things happen. Many people in the USA feel that they have the right to own a weapon to protect themselves, their family, and their property. They feel this is a core value of being a citizen of the United States of America. To those who feel this way, they feel they have the right to own and use a weapon on anyone and anything that they feel threatens them or their family. It is this very value that I point the finger at as being the root cause of what’s wrong in the USA.

These people, whom many of them are well respected, intelligent, and gun-safety aware individuals, feel that if someone breaks into their home, they need to shoot and kill that person to “protect” their family and their property. I wonder why they feel like this. And although I am not one of them, what I am guessing is the root cause is that those people think that the folks breaking into their homes are there to do them harm. That they are there to break into their home, kill them, murder their spouses and children, and do general harm to anyone who gets in their way. So it’s a “kill or be killed” mentality. The problem is, no one seems to be thinking about what is actually going on.

I live in a relatively safe neighborhood in Atlantic Canada. Kids ride their bikes in the streets. My neighbors are friendly and I have no worries about being safe. But I also know that at any time, someone could break into my home, steal my stuff, or whatever. I know the reality is that anything can happen at any time. That really is the way of the world. So why don’t I own a gun to protect my family? Because I don’t want to live in fear.

Those people who arm themselves in their home insist that they do it to protect themselves. But I think this is not the case. I think they are afraid and the gun gives them a false sense of security. They are scared that someone is out there and is coming to kill them or do them, or their family harm. They see the world as one where they cannot rely on anyone else and have to be ready for anything to happen. They would rather assume that the worst is always the most probably case and to be prepared for it.

I know that if someone broke into my home, I’d be scared. But I also know that the odds of them breaking into my house to kill me or my family are slim to none. Yes, sure there are crazies in the world, but if I live my life obsessing over every crazy thing that could happen, I’d never leave my house. So instead, I live my life assuming that the majority of people I know are good people, and that things will be fine. I might be living obliviously, but I believe it’s better for me to be optimistic about what the world is, then to be afraid of everything.

The guy who breaks into my house is not likely there to kill me. He’s probably breaking in to steal something so he can sell it for money to pay off a debt, or buy drugs, or something else. That’s why people break into other people’s houses. Most of the time it’s theft, not murder. If a thief came into my home, he can take whatever he wants as long as he leaves me and my family alone.  And yes, if he came near my family, I would do anything in my power to protect them, but I’m not going to go out and buy a gun to do that. To me, that’s kind of like saying fear has beaten me.

Do I worry that bad things might happen? Sure. We all do. But if you focus on all of the bad in the world, you’ll be miserable. I have been there and it’s not a place I want to go back to. I’d rather live in a world where things are optimistic, even when sometimes I know it’s not possible.

Therein lies the difference. Those who choose to view the world with optimism, even if it’s misguided sometimes, don’t live in fear and therefore don’t need to have a gun to feel safe. Since I don’t need to have a gun, I don’t have a gun and since I don’t have a gun, I can’t kill anyone. In the US, because this fear culture is so prolific, you can go pretty much anywhere and buy any kind of gun to “protect” yourself. Those same retailers can either sell the guns illegally or may even get their guns stolen and hence the criminals now have access to the same gun library. If everyone wasn’t so afraid of the world, there wouldn’t be a need to have guns in every corner store. This fear culture has bred into a gun culture which people mistake as a way to protect themselves when it’s really just a way for people to not be afraid anymore.

There’s also another side to this that I don’t think people think about either. If someone breaks into your home and is trying to steal your $100 blu-ray player and you shoot him dead, exactly what have you done? You literally took the life of another human being for $100. No, that person should never have broken into your home and scared you like they did. But was that human being’s life really worth taking over a $100 media player?

And now that this person is dead, you have to live with the consequence of taking the life of another human being. Regardless of what actions the person took that drove them to steal from you, it was your decision to end their life and now you have to spend the rest of your life living with the fact that you killed another human being for $100. You will never live that down and will carry that with you for the rest of your life.

I happen to know of someone through my extended family who did kill someone. That someone was a father, son, brother, husband, and friend to many people. And although in this case it was entirely by accident, that person lives with the mistake they made to this day, despite the fact it happened over 30 years ago. Imagine if in your case, you did it on purpose. You will have that scar forever.

I believe the issue present in the United States is that they have bred a culture of fear and are paying the price for it. It’s not going to change with gun control, or better mental health. It’s only going to change when the people of that country realize that living in fear is not a way to live at all. It’s ok to be a little afraid, but you shouldn’t be living your life assuming that everyone else around you is out to get you and that it’s only every man for himself.

This is further complicated by the fact that religious zealots have used terrorism over the course of the last 15 years to scare people even more. At one time, the residents of the US were kind of oblivious to what was going on in the rest of the world. 9/11 changed all that and now the fear of others coming to harm you is even stronger. As terrorism continues, and the hate proliferates, this issue is going to become even worse before it gets better. Throw in American media which loves to glorify violence and terrorism on television, people are exposed to it at every corner and become more and more afraid.

I wonder if the day will ever come where everyone living in the US realizes that you can live a much happier life looking at the world with a smile, than with a snarl.

That’s my own take on the whole issue. It is just my own personal opinion but I wanted to get it out there. Take it for what it is.

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