In 2018, the topic seen so frequently in the public eye is that of gun violence. The western world has experienced several highly publicized mass shootings, and when a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool open fired an AR-15 rifle in the school, killing 17 of his peers, the debate on gun control was once again thrust into the spotlight. In Canada, we are no stranger to these tragedies either--we just suffered the loss of two citizens after a man opened fire in Toronto’s popular Greektown neighborhood on a Sunday evening. In fact, CityNews recently reported that Toronto’s downtown has seen an 167% increase in gun violence since last year.
It is worth noting that mass shootings actually account for a very small percentage of gun violence in Canada and the US. However, due to the horrific and seemingly random nature of this act, it brings focus back to the issue of gun violence and begs the questions: what is at the root of this issue, and how do we prevent further deaths?
It is helpful to examine the gun laws themselves. Many of us have watched and weighed-in on the conversation around existing gun control laws in the States. The US government is currently in a battle to address this issue-- one that has deep political roots.
While many are calling for a radical change in gun laws and accessibility to firearms, there are others who argue the opposite and believe that guns are their born right. Unlike our Southern neighbour's, Canada’s laws are shaped by the view that firearm ownership is not so much a right, but rather a privilege. Laws related to gun ownership and use in our country include more restrictions, required training, and background checks, meaning not everyone can carry around any gun. The reality is, however, that although this has proved useful in combating gun violence to an extent, many people still find a way to possess firearms illegally, and occasionally we see fatalities because of it. To see a summary of Canada’s gun control laws please click here.
Currently, as a response to this issue in the States, Congresswoman Katherine Clark has proposed the Animal Violence Exposes Real Threat (AVERT) Act. This bill aims to prevent those charged with animal abuse (considered a misdemeanor) from owning firearms. AVERT is based on academic research of commonly documented patterns that link animal abuser to other violent behaviours including domestic, child, and elder abuse. Research on "the link" also indicates that animal abuse may be a predictor of future violence.
The proposed Act brings up an important point: namely, that education and knowledge around patterns of violence and abuse must inform the preventative strategies aimed at combating these acts. A major element of addressing the issue of gun violence-- and violence on a broader scale-- is education. If we are able to identify why an abuser hurts their victim, whether that victim is a child, intimate partner, or animal, then we can use this knowledge to develop new preventative laws and social programs. Link T.O. strives to be a part of this educational initiative by working to inform the public of "the link" between multiple forms of family violence.
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For more information on the AVERT Act follow this link to Congresswoman Clark's web-page!