Gun control is a Canadian value I was proud to adopt

Posted on May 8, 2020 in Child & Family Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – Opinion/Letters

When my wife and I moved from Chicago to Toronto in the summer of 2010, the decision was mostly driven by potential career opportunities. I was completing my residency training in neurosurgery at Northwestern University and had been recruited to the University of Toronto to start a clinical practice and research program focused on treatment of brain cancers.

The move represented a chance for me to pursue two dreams — to be a surgeon and a scientist — as a new member of an academic centre internationally renowned for its prowess in both.

As critically, however, my physician wife and I saw the move to Toronto as a chance to define ourselves as partners with a country more closely aligned with our social values. Paramount to these values for us was Canada’s celebrated and shared vision of universal health care, a vision that, as physicians, we both shared and wished to be a part of.

Another core value my wife and I share with Canadians: support for gun control.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government took a significant step to further entrench this shared value. In announcing that the purchase, transport, import, or use of military-style assault weapons in Canada would be banned immediately, the prime minister said, “These weapons were designed for one purpose, and one purpose only, to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time. There is no use and no place for such weapons in Canada.”

As a physician in Chicago, I learned all too well that such weapons were not designed for hunting or even sport shooting. They were designed to kill — quickly, and in large numbers.

The government’s actions drew immediate and intense criticism from gun lobby groups, right wing pundits and multiple leaders within the Conservative Party of Canada. As a physician, son, husband, father, friend, and now, Canadian (my wife, daughter and I became citizens last year), I applaud and thank the prime minister for articulating what the majority of Canadians believe: that assault weapons have no place in the society that we wish to live in and protect.

Yet, as with medicine, we must be guided by the science, and the science is clear: jurisdictions that have more stringent restrictions on access to guns — including bans on assault weapons — have less gun injury and death. Canada’s assault weapons ban is backed by 15 medical associations, two national women’s organizations, survivors’ groups, mayors, police chiefs, and the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.

In the United States, evidence-based dialogue on gun control has been obstructed by the National Rifle Association and its political partners to great cost. We cannot allow the same to occur in Canada. We should recognize the important progress that has transpired, and guard the change. Let us not fall prey to hollow arguments about “gun rights” and “self protection” or opportunistic political posturing.

This is Canada, after all.

Dr. Sunit Das is a neurosurgeon and associate professor at St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health Toronto and the University of Toronto.

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