Five Realities to Stop Ignoring If We Aim to Stop Mass Attackers — Canadian and U.S. politicians and mass media are acting out their usual routine following the weekend massacres in the U.S. and a few attacks across Toronto.

  • Politicians exploit the events to win votes.
  • Media exploit the events to win eyeballs.
  • Everyone blames everyone except the person who pulled the trigger. (Blame: Trump, Scheer, NRA, video games, the Internet, YouTube, masculinity, racism, …)
  • Gun haters like Toronto Mayor John Tory enter their trance of mass hysteria. “Ban guns! Ban guns! Ban guns!”

Society can follow this playbook for the next thousand years, but it won’t stop a single attacker.

Here are five realities that we need to stop ignoring if we do want to stop the people who might kill us.

But only if we want healthier individuals living in healthier communities governed by healthier politics.

Five Realities

1. Guns Are Good

We need to recognize the legitimacy, value and benefits of firearm ownership and use, as well as its potential costs, dangers and risks.

Focusing only on costs imposed by mass murderers and terrorists is dishonest and leads to bad outcomes. Yet that’s almost all we do.

We also could explore how we see risk and safety in relation to firearms.

  • Some people feel safer when their guns are loaded and handy, and feel less safe without them. Other people feel safe when their guns are locked away and unusable. Others get nervous at the idea of firearms.
  • The Hill+Knowlton summary of the Canadian government’s consultations on gun bans last year did an excellent job of accurately and fairly representing the diversity of views. It’s possibly the smartest report of its kind, and the only good thing to come out of the consultation circus. Too bad the government overshadowed the report by promising to further criminalize honest gun owners.


2. Laws Will Continue to Fail

We need to recognize the failure of current laws, and the flawed logic and reasoning behind them.

We’ve had all the anti-murder legislation we need for a few thousand years, ever since No. 6 of the 10 Commandments: “Thou shalt not kill.”

Laws won’t stop people who want to kill us.

The solution to mass murderers probably isn’t a legislative one, and certainly isn’t one that punishes the people who aren’t doing the killing.

Good Guys don’t need the laws, and Bad Guys don’t read them.

Education could be more effective than legislation.

We probably should also hold dishonest politicians to account.

Hundreds of men and women voted new laws against hunters, farmers and sport shooters promising they would keep our communities safe. How should we deal with politicians whose lies cost lives?


3. We Have a Social-Cultural Crisis

Years of data show that attacks with bullets tend to be:

  • by poor people
  • against poor people
  • in poor areas with a majority of black, brown or red residents.
  • Illegal drugs and gangs are often part of the picture.

Massacres also happen in rich and middle-class areas, fancy night clubs and average shopping malls. The Quebec City mosque shooter was white. Toronto’s Danforth Avenue attacker wasn’t.

People increasingly suffer from emptiness, alienation and desperation. We have youth drugged up on chemicals from the street or the doctor.

We can’t legislate our way out of this.

We don’t have any guns to ban that will fix this.

Solutions will require dealing with messy, unpopular and unpleasant topics about culture, parenting, immigration, integration, race, ghettoes, poverty, schooling, hiring, policing, penal systems, mental health, addiction, gangs, and more.


4. Guns Don’t Kill People, People Do

Team Gun Ban goes crazy at that sentence.

We’ve had guns around for hundreds of years. We’ve never had more people owning and shooting more guns legally, safely and responsibly. Violent crime rates in Canada have been declining for decades. If our guns were pulling triggers and causing massacres, we’d already all be dead.

We’ve never had a gun problem, we’ve only ever had a people problem.

If we magically got rid of all the bullet launchers, we would stop murder by bullet. But the bullet isn’t the issue, the person who fired the bullet is.

And let’s say we could magically eliminate all guns and ammo. Mass attacks existed before them, and will exist after. (Think: bombs, blades, cars, planes, …)

The easy and not-very-important questions are: “What gun was it? How did he get it?”

The harder and more important questions are: “Why did he want to kill? Why did he think it was OK to kill? What’s happening in our families and communities?”

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders ratified this angle at a press conference today about the weekend shootings in Toronto. A reporter asked how the attackers were getting their guns.

“I’m more interested in the people willing to use the guns,” Saunders said.


5. Mass Media Promote Mass Shootings

We need to recognize the role of mass media in mass shootings.

#NoNotoriety. Coverage is improving, but if you’re feeling powerless, worthless, hopeless or angry, the media keep proving that mass killing is an instant shortcut to Page One.

Media have incredible power and opportunities to change their coverage and reduce mass killings.