Gun debate lands hard in West Islanders' backyard

Marc Lalonde
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Shooting incident will leave scars on community for a long time

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Monday's unfortunate shooting incident, which left a 16-year-old boy shot dead in his Dorval home and his 12-year-old brother in police custody and facing manslaughter charges in youth court, highlighted just how unsafe it is to keep a loaded firearm in one's home. Details on the incident aren't yet clear, but after questioning the 12-year-old  (the dead teen's younger brother) through the night Monday, police and prosecutors suggested the evidence pointed to manslaughter, meaning the 12-year-old was at least partly negligent in using the weapon.

Well, no question about that, it appears. It can also be suggested it was negligent to leave teenagers alone in a home with a loaded weapon, no matter how well they understand the use and care of firearms.

Many critics will say this is another reason to give Quebec the data from the federal government's now-scrapped gun-registry database, but that's a specious argument. It's not a question of who shot the gun, or from whence it came. The gun came from inside the home, where it had been kept, ostensibly for protection.

Protection from what, though? An unfortunate accident? A home invasion? Marauding criminals? Statistics show clearly that people who keep weapons in their homes are more likely to hurt themselves with it rather than be protected by it from imaginary boogeymen. In this case, the only thing this family has been 'protected' from is a happy future where every member lives a long, happy, healthy life. Now, one child is dead and another is facing three years in juvenile detention. Where's the protection there?

Gun lobbyists' reactions might be something along the lines of 'well, if the 16-year-old had a gun, he'd have been able to defend himself,' but that's a silly and short-sighted argument. One shouldn't be surprised when instruments of death and pain – guns – end up causing death and pain. My heart goes out to the boys' mother – a single mom struggling to get by with an ex-husband whose idea of supporting his sons meant taking hunting trips instead of paying child support – and I wouldn't wish her situation on anyone. It's hard enough to raise teenagers with two parents and solid male role model in the house for the boys, let alone doing it alone, on one salary in a family that needed more support and couldn't find it.

We don't live in the United States, where gun culture and the gun-control debate has reached levels of hysteria that rival the passion felt in the abortion debate or other similar, hot-button social issues – that said, however, there are plenty of Canadians who think that more guns equals more safety – and they couldn't be more wrong. A weapon whose primary function is to cause grievous injury is never a deterrent and almost always an escalator that takes a situation from tense to grave – and having it around is not necessary to keep your home and family safe. Rogue bands of warlords are not roaming around looking to invade homes and harm the inhabitants. We are not living through a revolution or invasion by a foreign power. We are not being taken from our homes in the middle of the night by silent and unseen forces.

Guns kill – and it is a fact of life. Do you love your children? Then keep guns out of your home. Period.

Geographic location: Islanders, Dorval, Quebec United States

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