Chicago and Toronto are roughly equal in size. Yet Chicago averages 450 gun murders per year, while Toronto has fewer than 60. Why are Chicagoans seven times more violent and deadly than Toronto residents? Maybe it's because Canada has sensible gun control laws.
Chicago's public radio station is airing a series titled "Under the Gun." The first episode featured the contrast with Toronto. Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant said he nearly was impeached by irate citizens in 2005 when Toronto suffered an abnormal upsurge to 79 gun murders. "They wanted me to resign, wanted me to come up with solutions," he recalled.
Obviously, Canadians won't tolerate pistol slaughter the way Americans do. America mostly shrugs as about 10,000 U.S. citizens are gunned down each year. Toronto university professor Wendy Cukier said:
"Among industrialized countries, the United States -- which has almost as many guns as people -- has the highest rate of gun ownership, has the most resistance to gun control, and yet has the highest rate of carnage ... . It's just shocking, I think, to most people around the world that Americans don't realize that the conditions under which they live are comparable to conditions in developing and Third World, post-conflict societies."
In more civilized lands, she said, "people don't have to worry about their children being shot when they go to school."
Last Wednesday, the Detroit Free Press noted the city's slaughter: "There were 16 shootings in a little more than 24 hours, several of them fatal. The next day, nine more people were shot, one fatally."
Why is America cursed with vastly more gun murders than other advanced democracies? Mostly because the ardent right-to-bear-arms movement terrifies U.S. politicians, making them afraid to pass gun safety laws.
The September issue of The Atlantic contains a strange report titled "The Secret History of Guns." It says conservative U.S. whites and the National Rifle Association once were strong advocates of gun control, partly because they feared blacks with weapons.
"In the 1920s and '30s, the NRA was at the forefront of legislative efforts to enact gun control," the magazine says. NRA leaders helped draft the Uniform Firearms Act, which limited pistol-carrying to "suitable" people with permits, and required gun dealers to report all sales into a registry. "The NRA today condemns every one of these provisions," it added.
In the 1960s, after armed Black Panthers occupied California's capitol, then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and Republicans rushed to pass tough laws against gun-carrying, the article says. Since then, ideology has flip-flopped and the GOP champions concealed pistols.
The recent massacre of teens in Norway shows that other nations are vulnerable. But day in and day out, year after year, America remains a revolting example of a place where gun murder is tolerated as part of daily life.
At Copley, Ohio, this month, an enraged man gunned down seven before he was killed by police. At a Texas skating rink last month, a raging man killed his wife and four relatives. Multiple shootings like these make headlines, but ordinary murders barely are noticed in the world capital of pistol killings.