Last week, freshman Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) ended a marathon fifteen hour filibuster demanding that Congress finally do something — anything — about the gun control issue. Just days prior, a gunman committed one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history when he stormed into the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida with a semiautomatic assault rifle, shooting and killing 49 victims and wounding 53 more before being killed by police. Most of the Orlando shooter’s victims that night — the twelfth of LGBT Pride Month — were Black and Brown LGBT clubgoers out for a night of drinks and dancing at Pulse’s weekly Latin night.
When Omar Mateen, Orlando shooter, attacked Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning, he did so with a legally purchased Sig Sauer MCX and Glock17 handgun. The rifle was first developed at the request of US military to accept a range of ammunition types, and its specialty is its built-in silencing technology. On June 12, Mateen used his MCX to fire a still unknown number of bullets at a rate of 24 rounds in 9 seconds.
As this gun enthusiast blog raves, “it really does look like SIG Sauer took the concept of the Honey Badger and ran with it all the way to the finish line. And then decided to make it available for sale to the civilian market and not just for military contracts.”
When I first moved to the United States from Canada, I was shocked by the casual normalcy with which Americans treated their guns. Canada is no stranger to guns — we rank 12th in the world in gun ownership with about 1 gun for every 3 Canadians — but we lack a culture of firearm fetishism. Few Canadians feel an urge to purchase a gun for non-hunting purposes, and Canadian gun owners just don’t feel the need to walk around strapped. Efforts to circumvent our gun control laws were an anathema; I remember as a child reading a two-page spread in the Toronto Star dedicated to an investigative story about a homicide committed using an unregistered firearm: it had been purchased across the border in America.
The first time I saw a gun, I had just moved to the United States. I was shopping for athletic clothes at a local sporting goods store when I wandered over to the outdoors section. There, within a display counter, were a collection of handguns. I stared in horror at them: lying just inches from my face behind a wall of plexiglass — a weapon that existed only for the purpose of killing another human being with a quick pull of a trigger. This was a machine invented only for ending life, easily purchased for a few hundred dollars.
I couldn’t help wondering, “is human life worth so little to Americans, that the means for taking it can be found on sale next to the sleeping bags and ice coolers?”
I was sixteen at the time. Nearly two decades of living in America has done little to blunt this initial reaction I had to American gun culture. I’ve been in the United States — where most people love their guns — all of my adult life. I’ve lived in Arizona — where most people really love their guns — for several years, during which time I met many people with Concel & Carry Permits and who never went anywhere without a gun in their purse or holstered at their hip. I’ve fired a .45 (which, admittedly, was pretty fun).
But, I’ve never stopped wondering why Americans place so little value in human life that we are unwilling to do anything about this country’s senseless hyperproliferation of guns.