Guns and American Cities

by Gord Hume're organizing a community meeting at city hall in your municipality. Chairs are set up, the mics are on, the coffee is ready, people are wandering in and then the Mayor comes strolling in with a loaded revolver strapped to his belt.

Or at the airport baggage claim, the woman you're jostling with at the carousel starts fingering the revolver in her purse.

Or, here's a particularly scary thought, young people on a college campus being allowed to carry handguns. Texas recently became the eighth state to allow "campus carry". Kids, beer and guns...what could possible go wrong?

These are just a few examples of what could happen if more legislation is passed in the United States that would permit more guns to be legally carried.

As I continue my research into civic issues across the southern US, guns and health care are perhaps the two issues that most starkly divide Canadian and American residents.

Many Canadians will have trouble even understanding either issue. "Free" (we pay through our taxes, of course) Medicare across the country has been ingrained in our nation for half a century since Tommy Douglas introduced it in Saskatchewan in the early 60s. Most Canadians cannot conceive of having to fork over enormous sums for hospital stays or medical care. 

As an example, last year in Florida a friend of mine who lived in Ottawa suffered a heart attack...he was rushed to the hospital, had a couple of stents inserted and other heart relief measures applied by apparently very good medical staff, spent one day in the ICU, and received a bill for $500,000.

Why Trump and so many Republicans froth at the mouth over the medical coverage that Obamacare provided to 20 million more Americans and want to tear it down is something that I cannot explain.

Neither is the virulent demand for more gun-carry laws. In the aftermath of the recent shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport, or the horrific attack at the nightclub in Orlando, the calls are ratcheting up for more "freedom" to lawfully carry and transport firearms. 

In the media coverage of the airport shooting the point was made by many news commentators that the alleged shooter was licensed to carry and he legally transported his gun and the ammunition on the plane. I don't recall even one commentator ever suggesting that perhaps if fewer people had fewer guns there would be less shootings and fewer deaths.

If you have never had (or eavesdropped on) a conversation in the southern states about guns, it is hard to make Canadians understand the depth of feeling that it creates. The NRA (National Rifle Association) is one of the most powerful lobby organizations in the country. It gives candidates for public office a report-card ranking that can impact a close race.

Some Mayors are fighting back. They are trying to prohibit guns being carried in their cities, with a varying degree of success. The courts are involved and the constitution and the NRA and it is all very messy and uncertain.

Last Thursday a customer in a convenience store shot (not fatally) a person apparently trying to rob a convenience store. The Sheriff was very clear about that: "If you're in a life-or-death situation, you absolutely have your God-given right in Pasco County to defend yourself," he told the Tampa Bay Times.

To an outside observer, it appears to be a fairly simple equation more guns will inevitably result in more shootings and more deaths. How proponents think that having more people carrying guns on a university campus, or drawing their pistol in the middle of the confusion and panic of a shooting at a nightclub or airport, escapes my limited comprehension. Even veteran police officers will tell you of the confusion, panic and terror that result from any kind of shooting or violence in a public place. Having inexperienced people drawing their own weapons in a crowded, perhaps darkened, room with people screaming and running in all directions seems like a recipe for greater disaster.

Florida lawmakers and I have to tell you, the Florida legislature is a very unique political body; very unique is now considering , for the third year in a row, whether to allow concealed guns to be carried on college and university campuses. Florida already has issued 1.7 million concealed weapon permits. 

A recent Los Angeles Times editorial noted, "Studies have found a correlation between higher statewide restrictions on access to guns and lower levels of gun violence in those states. Similarly, women in households where firearms are present are more likely to be shot to death by an intimate partner than they are to use it in self-defense. The presence of a gun makes an act of domestic violence much more likely to end in death." 

If the United States couldn't be moved to tighten gun controls after 20 grade one students and several adults were gunned-down at Sandy Hook elementary school a few years ago, I don't know what might. Certainly the hard-right Republican Congress will not budge. Neither will President Trump. 

It is left to Mayors to try to bring some sanity and comfort to their cities. Once again we are seeing the importance of local government and the leadership mayors and councillors can provide.

Gord Hume


Gord Hume is recognized as one of Canada's leading voices on municipal government and is an articulate and thoughtful commentator on civic government and community issues. He is a very popular public speaker, an advisor to municipal governments, and a respected and provocative author.

Gord was elected to London City Council four times. He has had a distinguished career in Canadian business, managing radio stations and as Publisher of a newspaper. Gord received two “Broadcaster of the Year' awards. He is now President of Hume Communications Inc., a professional independent advisor to municipalities.

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