The Coalition for Gun Control will be featuring a series of guest bloggers who will explore various issues relating to gun violence and gun control in Canada. Please get in touch If you are interested in featuring your post on our website.
It has been an amazing year for many in Ottawa. As a mom living here, I have experienced many ups and downs this year. In the midst of the usual daily joys and fatigue of motherhood here, it has, according to Ottawa police, been a record-breaking year “48 shootings in 2014… a 60-per-cent increase in shootings compared with the previous year, when the city had 30 in total”.
Ottawa’s record-breaking year for gun violence included of course the October 22, 2014 attack on our Parliament and War Memorial: October 22 was the day that so many of us learned what it felt like to check in with the school board while our kids were in lockdown, and spent hours on the floor beside our office desks, waiting. It was the day I learned what it literally, physically means, to be sick with worry for one’s children.
The events of October 22nd were, or should have been a reminder, a wake-up call that gun violence occurs in Canada too. It was a day when many of us of this generation felt for the first time the visceral sweat of vulnerability that was felt by other Canadians in Montreal on December 6, 1989, more than 25 years ago, when a gunman opened fire on “feminists” at the Ecole Polytechnique.
I used to live in the United States. When I returned to Canada after living there for a few years, I joked to my friends that one of the greatest sighs of relief I breathed on my return to my home country was about the fact that neither I nor my children had been shot during our sojourn in America. But this year has underscored for me that we are unduly smug about American gun violence here in Canada. We have problems with gun violence too.
In our casual conversations, in mainstream media reports and in political speech about Ottawa’s gun violence this year, much has been said about terrorists, gangs and criminals. Little has been said about where the guns are coming from and how the flow of these guns could be slowed or stopped by better gun control laws. Interestingly, a little-reported fact is that, according to Ottawa Police, about 50% of the guns they seized were stolen during robberies from gun owners and dealers.
In the wake of the awful 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Pennsylvania, American moms came together on social media and in person to lobby for better gun control laws. Their work is not yet done. But I am concerned about Canadian moms, and wonder whether we might need to do the same, whether our role now is not just to wait and pray, to wave the flag or even to vote, but to actively challenge those with political power and ask where these guns are coming from. More needs to be done to keep our children safe.