Gun-law madness in America

Editorial: When the NRA is a voice of moderation on ‘open carry’ laws, it’s clear America’s obsession with guns has gone too far

Bob Daemmrich/Corbis

Bob Daemmrich/Corbis

For most urban Canadians, the sight of someone walking through their neighbourhood with a rifle and shotgun over his shoulder prompts an immediate call to police—and a fear the worst is about to happen. Certainly, that was the horrific truth in Moncton, N.B., last week, as an openly armed Justin Bourque allegedly killed three RCMP officers and wounded two others in broad daylight.

The terrifying events in Moncton render even more incomprehensible the ongoing gun-law madness unfolding south of the border. In the United States right now, “open carry” gun activists are working hard to normalize the presence of armed men and women on streets, in parks and in stores. And yet, this battle to bear arms in as visible and provocative a manner as possible may finally have gone too far. At the very least, it’s given the famously powerful U.S. gun lobby cause for concern.

While Texas revels in its frontier image of cowboys and six-shooters, modern-day gun owners in the Lone Star state are prohibited from openly slinging pistols on their belts. Handgun owners must conceal their weapons, although rifles may be carried openly. To change the status quo, groups such as Open Carry Texas have lately been organizing protests in which supporters flaunt their AR-15 assault weapons and Mossberg SA-20 shotguns in public. “We are trying to make it as normal as possible for people to see a gun like a fashion accessory,” Open Carry coordinator Kory Watkins told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “That is the way it should be. This is America.”

Americans have always had a markedly different relationship with firearms than their Canadian neighbours, but the majority reaction to such in-your-face tactics has been surprisingly negative. Organizations such as Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America—funded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg—have generated widespread outcry among American middle-class families by publishing photos of gun-toting shoppers browsing the baby sections of Target stories, and other bizarre scenes. Restaurants, including Chipotle, Chili’s and Jack in the Box, have asked diners to leave their guns at home. And, perhaps most surprising, the National Rifle Association (NRA)—a proponent of bringing guns onto university campuses and employers’ parking lots—has suddenly become a voice of moderation.

In a commentary published on its website last week, an NRA staffer argued against Texas’s Open Carry rallies: “Using guns to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners.” The NRA eventually removed the note and apologized. Nonetheless, its directorate appears to consider public gun displays as detrimental to the cause. In a recorded online debate with Open Carry organizers, NRA representatives Charles Cotton and Alice Tripp argue that shoving guns in the faces of families where they shop and eat risks turning the general population of Texas against further gun law concessions. “It is the vast majority of folks who are not NRA members, or [anti-gun group] Brady Campaign members, who are going to be influenced by this,” comments Cotton. “That is where the danger comes in.”

Divisions between states on the gun issue are also becoming starker. Of the five most populous states, California, New York and Illinois have the strictest gun laws in the country, while the other two, Texas and Florida, are among the most permissive (current debate over open carry notwithstanding). The greatest fear among gun rights advocates is that future demographics will not be kind to their movement. “The scary, scary thing to me,” says Tripp in the podcast, “is that [Texas] is growing by 750,000 people a year, and they’re not going to be our kind of people. They’re going to be coming from California and New York, and they will be bringing their laws with them.”

The legal and moral divisions between states over gun law are starting to sound an awful lot like the charged debate over slavery in the mid-1800s. Perhaps one day in the future, it will seem as outrageous and shameful to have argued in favour of letting Americans walk around armed to the teeth in their daily lives as buying and selling human beings seems today. We can hope.

No law will ever completely eliminate the risk of firearm homicides, as the tragedy in Moncton reveals. Yet, if the U.S. had the same rate of gun murders as Canada, there would be 10,000 fewer deaths every year. With this in mind, we pray that the sight of a heavily armed civilian walking down your street never becomes normal, wherever you live.

Maclean’s efforts across different platforms and formats were recognized last week by our peers at the National Magazine Awards, with the newsroom picking up four gold medals, one silver and 13 honourable mentions. Maclean’s awards included magazine website of the year, a gold for online video and best short feature for the story “Boy Genius,” and a gold for humour columnist Scott Feschuk. The honours confirm that, however you want to read, consume or experience it, Maclean’s delivers the best Canada has to offer.

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Gun-law madness in America

  1. America has a gun culture, and they’ll have to change that before they can stop the carnage.

  2. But a heavily armed police officer walking down the street is okay?

    All this commotion over these open carry campaigns and yet not one single shot has ever been fired at one. No one has been hurt ever. Yet here we are blaming them for a crime that they haven’t committed. Am i the only one that sees a problem with this logic? You may as well replace word gun with car in this article and it would be the same. Well maybe not cars kill more people a year than guns do.

  3. Gun laws do nothing but put unreasonable burdens on the law abiding. Using Moncton as an example just as you did, the laws to stop this individual were already in place. The RCMP had full authority to remove this individuals firearms in the interest of public safety and the shooters father had contacted the RCMP and pleaded with them to remove his firearms. They interviewed him and released him saying that their “hands are tied” when in fact they were not. This is a case of a lack of mental health care and assessment. If the police had the training in this area or were able to have mental health practitioners available to do the assessment then these officers in all likelihood would still be alive. Again, tighter gun laws do nothing except put unreasonable burdens on the law abiding. Criminals or those intent on killing will always find a way. Here in Canada there are 3 times as many people killed annually with a knife than a gun.

    • “Here in Canada there are 3 times as many people killed annually with a knife than a gun.”

      Ever think that’s because they have easier access to the knives? That maybe greater access to guns might just even out those odds?

      Knives – or cars, per Chris’ comment above – are items designed for one purpose being used for another. Killing is not their primary purpose. The same cannot be said for guns.

      Thinking of them as a “fashion accessory”, as per the article, is sheer lunacy.

  4. Although I think the US is going to change it’s gun laws, whether they like it or not. I don’t think it will stop the “carnage” at all. What people always fail to recognize is there are far more people killed in the US every year in single person murders than all the mass shooting combined. To think that it is the so called “gun culture” that is solely responible is really just “cherry picking” the causes that lead to violence. There are a large number of factors that contribute to violence including but not limited to social, economic, geographic and so on. If you are going to fairly analyse violence had how to best prevent it then we must look at everything as a whole. Stricter gun control may or may not have an effect on murder rates or even mass killings. People are only looking at one aspect of the problem and not the whole picture. If only one part of the equation becomes the focus then the problem will remain unsolved. People with ill intent and conviction will always find a way to complete that intent. I think it is important that we root out the cause of an action and not just focus on the instrument used to carry it out.

    • Very true. As an example, Australia disarmed their population for the most part and guess what? Violent crimes are now through the roof, same story in the UK. The reasons for these crimes are far broader than simply firearms and those intent on doing wrong will always find a way.
      Anyone looking for more information on how gun control does not work need only read the following on how it failed in Australia: http://www.cegunshows.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=0vHv2eDziQg%3D&tabid=36

      • Is that old wheeze still going around? None of it is true.

        • Stop trolling. You’re last comment proves your lying because those states are true/fact based and the first one you made only portray’s how bigoted you are.

          • No, I’m sorry, they’ve never been true. There was no change in the stats.

            Australia doesn’t have gun rights you know. No constitutional guarantee…same as us. No gun culture either, so they don’t foam at the mouth about it.

            PS I own guns.

          • “PS I own guns.”

            Scariest thing I’ve read in a long time.

        • Heh.

  5. Yes, because once there are no guns, desperate and insane people will stop doing horrible things. After all, only guns kill people. Psychopaths will just give up if there are no guns–they won’t realize one can do a massive amount of damage with bombs or vehicles.

    Mass shootings are not to blame for the vast majority of gun homicides in Canada or the USA. Licensed gun holders are not to blame either (in Canada, licensed gun owners are three times less likely commit homiside than someone without a license). The real problem is with criminals using stolen firearms, usually to kill other criminals, and not innocent people.

    I’m outraged that I can’t practice .22 pistol shooting on my own 100 acre property, but it would be perfectly legal for me to shoot a high-powered .338 Lapua magnum rifle on my property. Guess which one causes more damage if a shot escapes the backstop? What we really need are smarter laws, because the current Firearms Act is ridiculous and isn’t really protecting anyone.

  6. Now I remember why I don’t read Macleans… Thank-you closed-minded article and author.

  7. Americans live in a comic-book. A giant comic-book in fact.

    I see some on here want to do the same thing….except I notice they don’t emigrate.

  8. What is going on in the US is insanity at it’s highest level. Until the American people vote out people in Congress and the Senate who support the NRA nothing is going to change.

  9. As an American from the deep south and former gun owner, I am so thankful I live in Canada after I read week after week of all the senseless gun violence back home. Stay the way you are Canada.

  10. Since when is opposition by “organizations such as Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America—funded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg” a “majority reaction” – ?

    Bloomberg et al. is the liberal establishment and the east coast elite. They have always been in favour of disarming the citizenry.

    There’s a reason why Democrats have been fleeing the gun control/confiscation platform ever since it cost Al Gore the election: most Americans reject the leftist attempt to violate the Constitution.

    Want a bellwether? Consider this piece at the Washington times, about Georgia’s new right-to-carry law, and which reports “At least 30 states have passed some kind of pro-gun legislation this year”.

    Now that’s a “majority reaction”!


    But I wouldn’t want to end this comment without calling out this piece of Macleans-style obfuscation-by-misdirection:

    Divisions between states on the gun issue are also becoming starker. Of the five most populous states, California, New York and Illinois have the strictest gun laws in the country, while the other two, Texas and Florida, are among the most permissive…”

    Let’s try this instead:

    “Three of the most populous, bankrupt, corrupt states are under the iron control of the Democratic Party, and — what a coincidence — have the strictest gun laws in the country.”

    There…. fixeditferya.

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