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between-our-steps-03-07-18-doubleThe tragic school shooting in Florida sparked waves of reaction, emotion, and action in the United States and Canada.

The first reactions were sorrow for the families and the lost, along with outrage that someone could take lives in such a manner. Incomprehension abounded, especially as those who support the right to carry a gun rallied to defend the American second amendment.

A sense of helplessness followed. More children killed. Another assault rifle used against innocent people. A feeling that despite the outrage, nothing would change in our neighbour to the south.

Then, conversations erupted. I won't call it a dialogue, because the two sides did not talk to each other. Rather two streams of argument flowed in parallel, knowing what the other was saying but talking past each other to gain the public's ear. In some ways, these voices were trying to talk over the other, to be louder and stronger. Many have given up on convincing those who take a different stance on gun control.

At some point, I am going to go looking for the social media posts that defend the right to carry guns. The ones that crossed my feed argued for stricter controls. There was the one that said that if a child is hitting another child with a stick, we don't give them all sticks, we take the stick away from the one who was hurting others. Makes sense to me. Another showed a lifeguard holding a shark saying those who defend our beaches from sharks should carry one. A good satire. More direct was the post from the gun owner who announced that he is decommissioning his AR 15 so that it can never be used against a person.

The proposal to arm teachers has sparked sensible voices to speak loudly in opposition. People who know how to handle guns point out that arming people with no experience with guns is not safe. I am not sure I like the Florida governor's decision to put armed security guards in every school, but it is a bit more sensible than putting guns in the classroom.

In congress, there is a push for small steps to control who carries guns. The suggestions for change are specific and concrete: better background checks and outlawing assault weapons in civilian hands. Congress may be a long way from passing these, but at least there is an attempt to lay out the ground for dialogue.

As the days passed, the voices arguing for gun control found that there was more support for this position than sometimes. This shooting tipped the scale somewhat. In Canada, people realized that one of the major gun manufacturers also made products that are sold in the popular company MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop). A push was made to have the company stop selling anything from this manufacturer. And MEC responded almost immediately, cancelling any new orders from the company.

Perhaps this economic pressure will have some results. And this action shows that the public, even the public in Canada, is not helpless. If we think and focus, we can come up with actions that press for change.

About the same time, in response to the hashtag #boycottNRA, some companies distanced themselves from the organization by no longer offering discounts to NRA members. This public stance helps create a different atmosphere in the discussion.

In the middle of the Oscars, as there was some effort to recognize the need for more diversity in the movie industry, one of the striking performances came from the rapper Common and the singer Andra Day. In his introduction to the song/rap, Common said, "Tell the NRA they in God's way and tell the people of Parkland we say àse (a West African philosophy about creating change). Sentiments of love for the people from Africa, Haiti, to Puerto Rico." Later, in the duet, the two showed support for Black Lives Matter and called on people to stand up for what they believe in. A quick shot of the audience showed how many stood right then.

I do not think that this "conversation" is a dialogue yet. Voices are still speaking past each other, and some are still seeking to drown the others out. But it feels better than helplessness.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.


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