I had every intention of finalizing what I was writing on Monday, but found it impossible to concentrate given the tragedy unfolding in Las Vegas.
Even though I knew the news coverage of this horrific event would be extensive, I still felt compelled to share my thoughts, as I imagine others are as sickened by the gun violence emerging around us and will agree to reach out to our politicians for the leadership needed.
I first heard about the mass shooting at 5:55 a.m. Monday. I had just pulled into the parking lot where I attend boot camp, feeling kind of upbeat, as I always enjoy the first class of a new month.
But that immediately changed when the radio announcer spoke of the tragedy, which I had not heard about. He reported, at that time, 40 innocent people had been murdered and hundreds were injured by a shooter.
I immediately felt my chest tighten and I bowed my head and sat in disbelief. I have heard the anguished cries of family members being informed of the tragic loss of a loved one and I prayed that no one had to face that news alone.
I got out of my car and joined my boot camp colleagues, who shared in my disbelief of yet another U.S. mass shooting, this one the worst, so far.
I really enjoy my boot camp colleagues, as we always manage to have a few laughs while our instructor puts us through our paces. However, on this Monday, due to the surreal feeling that comes with living life in the wake of a tragic event, we were quiet.
My thoughts were with the affected families who would be waking up to one of the worst days of their lives, due to guns, something Americans do a lot of.
America has five per cent of the world’s population. But 30 per cent of the world’s mass shootings of this nature occur in the United States.
A 2016 American Journal of Medicine study of violent death rates in the U.S. compared that country to 22 other high income ones and concluded: “U.S. homicide rates were 7.0 times higher than in other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher.”
This latest shooting will once again raise the debates around their Second Amendment, which reads: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Unfortunately, their Founding Fathers had no way of knowing the type of weaponry people would eventually bear, nor could they have expected that the proliferation and protection of such weaponry would become more important than the loss of innocent lives.
However, today’s politicians know full well, but refuse to respond.
Monday was my errand day and I spent a lot of time in my car, so I was able to listen to the radio coverage of the tragedy as it unfolded. I also caught snippets of people’s conversations in various line-ups, as I went about my business.
One young woman holding a toddler commented to the bank teller that it is incidents like these that confirm to her that it is best to stay in Canada.
A man outside of a store said: “Americans are crazy.” The person he said it to commented back: “The whole world has gone crazy.”
I actually heard that statement twice throughout the day.
Other comments via news from Canadians returning from Vegas, having experienced the assault, included a young man who said he has never been so happy to be back in Canada.
I am glad he feels that way, but how much safer are we?
One of our most recent cases of a mass shooting was in 2014 in Moncton, N.B., where a lone gunman roamed a neighbourhood, systematically shooting the RCMP officers that he encountered, killing three and wounding two.
The judge that presided over the court case brought forward by the families of the victims concluded that the officers were out-gunned and ill-prepared.
We know that gunfire on the streets of the Lower Mainland has escalated and it appears that luck is the only thing that is preventing innocent people from being killed in the crossfire, which has happened in the past.
And the same American Journal of Medicine study I cited contained the following: “The U.S. firearm homicide rate was seven times higher than that of the second highest country, Canada (3.6 vs 0.50 deaths per 100,000 population).”
Our politicians have work to do.
In an afternoon radio interview I listened to, by which time the death toll was 58 and expected to rise, the spokesperson for the American police authority said that they will investigate until they find out why the shooter did what he did.
I can tell them why he did it – because he could.
Yet the United States government continues to put off demands for stronger gun control legislation, which the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, already started deflecting, by hiding behind the Second Amendment.
While we don’t have their Second Amendment, we do have a culture of gun violence in our country. And our government owes it to every Canadian who has been a victim of such to take steps that will move Canada in a corrective direction.
If we can give Jordan McIIdoon’s family anything over and above our heartfelt sympathy, it may be the hope that he did not die in vain.
Contact your MP, MLAs and city council and ask them to make the prevention of gun violence a priority.
Cheryl Ashlie is a former
Maple Ridge school trustee, city councillour, constituency assistant
and current citizen of the year.