THOMPSON: Why it’s good to be a kid growing up in Canada, and not the US

Gun Rights

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OPINION


There’s good reason to be a child growing up in Canada, rather than the United States.

For one thing, you’re six times more likely to celebrate your 20th birthday in Canada.

America has a lot to offer…it still clings ferociously to freedom and democracy. There are beautiful natural wonders there. Some of the most gracious and hospitable folks you’ll ever come to know live there…and they mostly possess a positive “we can do it” attitude. It is the world’s strongest economy.

But despite the best healthcare money can buy (sarcasm intended), kids are dying at what Canadians would say is an alarming rate. No, it’s not COVID-19 or other diseases with effective vaccination regimes…when parents are enlightened enough to vaccinate.

It’s not cancers…of all types…or all childhood diseases combined. Despite America’s ample access to water – 100,000 miles of coastline and shoreline – it’s not drowning. Neither is it poisoning…from all drug overdoses and other toxic substances. There are 285-million vehicles in the U.S. (more than ten times as many as Canada)…but it’s not traffic and pedestrian accidents either.

In 2022, 48,204 people died from firearms…homicides, suicides and accidents…4,603 were children. That’s pretty much a capacity crowd at BC Place in Vancouver…with all the great 200-level seats between the football goal lines filled with children. All lost from firearms.

These official statistics reflect reality two years ago…unofficially, the numbers are trending upward the past two years. Even more people…more children…are dying.

Some 54 percent of adults report that they or a member of their family have experienced at least one firearms incident. More than one in five Americans has been threatened with a gun. Almost that number have lost a family member to suicide or homicide.

So, you might believe Americans would have this plague on their minds constantly. It turns out, six out of ten Americans say they worry about a loved one becoming a shooting victim “sometimes,” “almost every day,” or “every day.”

Quite frankly, you might believe that the number of people worried – fearing harm to a loved one – might be even higher. But, I believe this statistic – staggering if it was in Canada – is a mere ripple in America.

Funny thing about ripples…they spread energy away from their sources in expanding concentric rings…affecting greater areas. In other words, it’s not just the 48,204 human beings who died in the U.S. from guns…it’s the impact on family members, friends, work associates, school mates, witnesses, and, yes, even strangers who live in the same communities.

Mothers who witness just one shooting in their community are 60 percent more likely to suffer from depression. Siblings of children killed by firearms are nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders…mothers 3.6 times and fathers more than five times likely to suffer from mental illness.

More than half the kids in schools worry about a mass shooting. Some 79 percent of adults say they are “stressed” by the possibility of a mass shooting, with one-third of Americans saying their fear of a shooting keeps them from certain events or places.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a very good mental health profile to me.

Sensible Americans have become complacent…relegated to merely worrying about something they can easily change…but don’t. Despite being in the majority, they let a vocal minority shout them down…making sensible gun control…seem, well, un-American.

Of course, it is. The folks who value guns more than lives – even children’s lives – aren’t stupid. They simply don’t care. Otherwise, America would not be the only nation in the world not in a war zone where people die from gunplay so often…so easily…so wantonly.

Some 87 percent of gun deaths in the world’s 29 most economically developed nations happened in the United States in 2015, according to the most recent statistics available from the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization. The death rate for children…even worse…nine out of every ten gun deaths happened in the U.S.

Americans have no qualms spending $26,136 per dead child on federally funded research to find better ways to protect children in vehicle accidents…but just $597 per dead child to protect them from firearms. Again, more children die from firearms than vehicle accidents. By the way, Republicans, who controlled the House and Senate in 1997, de-funded the CDC’s firearms research.

In 2020, the Biden Administration pushed through the first research funding appropriation in more than 20 years. I guess you can look the other way only so many times when you have more than 132 deaths every day from firearms.

If sensible Americans had the will to stand up to Right Wing Republicans in the pockets of the National Rifle Association, they might consider treating firearms like other consumer products.

Safety standards for motor vehicles are set and regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the safety of pesticides and toxic chemicals. The Food and Drug Administration regulates prescription drugs. But there are no federal standards and few regulations for firearms…no regulatory agency. Why?

Americans need to do some serious soul searching. I’m not sure Americans have the guts to challenge political, corporate and cultural stupidity…though they seem to have the stomach for mass shootings and suicides…even of children.

Canada isn’t perfect. But we care about others enough to make homicides and suicides less prevalent…about 1,300 a year over the past 25 years…more than three-fourths of them suicides. Even this number is alarming and deserves our interest and action.

Meanwhile, parents, look at your children and be glad you live in Canada, where they are much more likely to celebrate being 20 years old.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.


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