A shot in the dark

A man was shot and killed in Canada on Wednesday, and his death brought the entire nation of 35 million to an emotional standstill.

A man was shot and killed on Laburnum Avenue in Henrico County Monday, and this may be the first you’ve even heard about it.

As a nation, we long ago became numb to the impact of gun-related violence and homicide. It’s simply an expectation now – one that hardly surprises us even when it is particularly awful and cruel, as a host of school shootings have proven in recent years.

What might surprise us more? The way our neighbors to the north were affected by the type of act that barely fazes us. When Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo was murdered by a masked man who ambushed him at the National War Memorial in the nation’s capital city of Ottawa Wednesday, it caused a reaction of disbelief and stunned shock throughout Canada. This sort of thing simply does not happen there.

In the three-year period from 2010-12, a total of 501 Canadians were the victims of homicide by firearm. That’s an average of 167 per year – or a figure low enough to reasonably assume that most people in the nation don’t know anyone who has been impacted by such murders.

By contrast, during the same three years, Virginia – with a population of just 8 million – experienced more than 700 gun-related homicides. California, a state with roughly the same population as Canada (38 million) witnessed 3,781 gun-related homicides during the same period.

Our reality is a sad reflection of what we’ve become and what we appear willing to accept.

In this country, almost all of us understand the impact of gun violence. We do know someone whose life has been impacted by it, or we hear about gun murders in our communities every week in the news, or our daily commutes take us past a place where someone was shot and killed.

And yet, little changes.

The 23-year-old victim of Monday’s homicide on Laburnum Avenue near The Shops at White Oak Village was the latest to die by gunfire in Henrico. Three days earlier, a 19-year-old father was shot and killed on his birthday in Sandston. And Henrico is a relatively safe place, even by gun homicide standards.

Consider that Richmond this week recorded its 37th homicide of the year, matching its total from all of 2013.

The fact is that in this country, we have a gun obsession unlike any other nation on Earth. Here, there are 90 guns for every 100 residents – by far the most of any country. (By comparison, Serbia checks in at No. 2 with 58 guns per 100 residents.) Canada is 13th, at about 31 guns per 100 residents.

More than 11,000 people die every year in the U.S. in gun-related homicides. We can debate endlessly whether that statistic is the result of too many bad guys with guns, too few good guys with guns, too many untreated mental health cases, too little parenting, too much negative societal influence or any number of other factors.

But the purpose of this column is not to engage either side of the gun debate in where we go from here.

Rather, it’s to call attention to where we are now – in a place that should inspire pride in none of us.

We’ve simply accepted that thousands of people will die each year in firearm homicides in this country, and we watch as it happens over and over again. Didn’t philosopher George Santayana warn us about this once?

The satirical news website The Onion ran an article earlier this year that summed up the irony of the nation’s gun-violence reality. “'No Way to Prevent This,' Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” it read.

It would have been morbidly funny were it not depressingly accurate instead.

E-mail Citizen Publisher Tom Lappas at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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Cowboy Mouth will perform at 8 p.m. at The Tin Pan, 8982 Quioccasin Rd. Formed during the glory days of grunge music, Cowboy Mouth forged a different sound from the very start – a sound rooted in rock, punk, blues and the attitude of the Big Easy, the band’s hometown. Bandleader Fred LeBlanc, who previously performed with the punk band Dash Rip Rock, pulls double-duty as the group's frontman and drummer. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. For details, call 447-8189 or visit http://www.tinpanrva.com. Full text

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