Arming the Crazies

About 30 minutes into the midnight premier of ‘The Dark Night Rises’ a young man began firing into the crowd at a packed suburban multiplex in Colorado. At least 7 people died, and as many as 70 more were injured. Over the days to come we will learn more about the shooter, who we now know to be a 24-year-old man who recently left medical school for “unknown reasons.” Could those reasons be “mental health issues?” Somehow this seems like a fair guess.

In Canada in 2000, there were 0.54 gun homicides per 100K, people, whereas the rate in the U.S. was 2.97 per 100K (Wikipedia). If you’re good at math you’ll notice that we had over five times more homicides by gun than our neighbors to the north. But Canadians can legally own guns, so what is the deal here? I put it down to gun laws and healthcare.

A couple of months ago a disturbed young man walked into a friendly neighborhood café in Seattle and started executing people. He had been kicked out of the café before for aggressive and angry behavior. His family worried about his mental health but could not convince him to seek help. Before the day was over he had killed five people including himself. He legally owned six guns.

“Registration of firearms in Canada has been an issue since the 1930s when the registration of handguns became mandatory. Over the past few decades, legislation had become increasingly restrictive for firearm owners and from 1995 until 2012, all firearms were required to be registered.” – Wikipedia

Though U.S. gun laws vary by state, in Colorado most guns can be purchased without a permit, registration, or license. In Washington state handguns must be registered, but all of the guns owned by the café shooter were registered legally to him. The man who shot Gabrielle Giffords was known to be mentally ill, and yet he legally purchased guns. Who decided that letting crazy people have guns is a good idea? That’s not quite the spirit of the 2nd amendment: “arm the crazies.”

The other thing that Canada has and we do not is universal health care. This means that mentally ill people and their families can seek help without fear of bankruptcy. Could this also play into how many more random or disturbed shootings we see here? Probably.

Canada’s not perfect. Countries like the U.K. that ban the public ownership of guns have much less gun violence. Just recently (following a loosening of gun registration law) a shooter went on a rampage in a Toronto shopping mall. Gun control lobbyists can add these tragedies to their platform. Presidential candidates will most likely try to avoid offending the NRA. But as long as we keep arming the crazies, these horror stories will keep happening.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. kittyireland says:

    A timely tweet from @Smuttysteff: “Deaths by guns in Canada in 2010, 170. In the USA, in 2010, 8,775. Per capita, that’s still 5+ times higher.”


  2. JesseK says:

    Very interesting story, being one who worked in mental health for 1o years, it saddens me that there is not more support for people with psych disorders. i think we need to have better screening when it comes to gun purchasers. to weed out crazies. p.s. did i ever tell you i left psych due to a hostage/suicide situation in the work place? it was a bad day, sadly my head nurse also took his life a year later.


  3. kittyireland says:

    Jesse – Ugh, how sad. Yes I agree on all counts. To be compassionate humans, we must take care of even the most violent crazy people, as difficult as that may be.


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