I'm from North Carolina, and "guns" weren't a bad word growing up. My grandfather, a native West Virginian, is a hunter (and arguably the best man on the planet). My dad has a collection of weapons. I shot a Glock in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and the majority of my family and friends own guns.
I'm also from a patriotic bunch: That same grandfather is a Vietnam veteran, my uncle served in the Air Force and we all believe America is still the greatest country in the world.
But I don't live there anymore.
Now, I'm living in Toronto. It's a city of around three million people, and yet as a petite female with no gun, I've yet to feel unsafe walking down any street at anytime of day or night. I can’t say the same about my time as an apartment dweller in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I've never seen a weapon on anyone here in Canada, save for police officers. When I go back to my home state for visits, I'm shocked (and slightly frightened) every time I notice someone in a public place with a gun on their hip (a man reading a book sitting in Barnes & Noble in Cary comes to mind).
Then there are the shootings.
A shooting in Toronto is reported as a big deal because it's rare and because although America has become desensitized to these sort of things, it is a big deal. In North Carolina, a shooting is mentioned in the news seemingly everyday.
In case you're skeptical, let’s talk numbers.
There were 286 homicides in the state of North Carolina in 2010 from gun violence.
As a comparison, there were 172 homicides from gun violence in the entire country of Canada in 2012.
That's a problem.
I get it. Americans love their second amendment. We also believe guns in the hands of the right people can save lives. And we’re right - that's what police officers are for. Police officers are trained to handle weapons, to respond to critical situations with the appropriate use of force, and to put their guns away when they're not necessary, or will only compound a problem.
The rest of us are not.
Some of us are hunters, some of us go to target practice so we know what the hell we're doing with a weapon that can kill people. Some of us lock our guns up so no one, including our children, can get their hands on them.
But some of us don't.
Few of us want to agree that guns can be more detrimental to society than helpful. Unfortunately, that would be ignoring the cold, hard facts:
“Americans are almost 70 per cent more likely to die at the end of a gun – shot by someone else, by themselves, by accident – than Canadians are to die in a car accident.” – Global News.
In case you’re tired of the Canadian comparison, let’s take a look at Japan, a country with strict gun laws (Japanese civilians aren’t allowed to possess handguns): There were 11 gun homicides in 2008 in the entire country.
The trite argument that criminals will get their hands on guns no matter what the laws are may or may not be valid, but here's a fact: According to The New York Times, "The vast majority of guns used in 16 recent mass shootings [...] were bought legally and with a federal background check." Including two of the weapons used in the Orlando shooting. So whether or not criminals may skirt gun laws is irrelevant – the laws as they stand now are enabling them.
Because we are clinging so desperately to our Second Amendment and ignoring the bloodshed in our country at the hands of guns, we are the only developed nation in the world with regular mass shootings.
The Constitution has been formally amended 27 times. One amendment abolished slavery, one prohibited the sale of alcohol (and was then repealed), and another gave women the right to vote. Even Americans are not always right the first time around.
We are turning a blind eye to the sheer numbers of mass shootings in this country, and blaming everything but the weapons used to shoot people: According to The Guardian, there were 1,052 mass shootings in 1,066 days in America. That article was updated in December of 2015.
As President Obama said in addressing the most recent mass shooting in America that took place in Orlando, “We have to decide if [this is] the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
Come on, America.