There is an underlying fear in America that at any moment you could get shot. We think about it when we sit down to watch a movie in a theater. We think about snipers when we walk across a parking lot. We think about random drive-by shooters when we're walking down the street. We think about it when we piss someone off in traffic. We think about it when we're in a church, or mosque, or synagogue. We think about it when we send our kids to school.
When I was a teacher I had it all planned out - how I would barricade the door, hide my students in the art supply closet, and how I would be a hero or die trying. I've wondered what picture of me the news would use in their memorial to the victims, what paragraph they would write to sum up my life, and how soon everyone would forget the event and move on to the next one.
Americans accept that gun massacres are inevitable. We train for them with lock-downs and active-shooter drills. Some people stock up on guns and ammo and arm themselves while they fantasize about being the the good guy with the gun. Studies have shown though that when there are more guns in society there are more accidents, suicides, and murders. Go figure. This is what guns are designed to do.
Walking around the Bestival music festival in Toronto on Sunday I felt free. It was a beautiful sunny day, everyone was dancing and smiling and enjoying the music together and I couldn't help but think of the people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando the night before. They too were dancing and smiling with their friends in a place where they felt welcome and accepted... until someone with an assault rifle decided to start shooting.
It could happen in Canada, but it doesn't, at least not often and not to the extent that it happens in the U.S. Why? Canadians have guns. The difference is that their government, in an effort to protect its citizens, has commonsense laws to regulate the availability and distribution of firearms.
... and that's where Americans who love guns start getting angry. Americans, I've found (at least the ultra-conservative ones) are much angrier in general than their conservative counterparts in Canada, especially when it comes to paying taxes, allowing government-sponsored health care, and accepting people of differing faiths and skin colors and sexual orientations. The mere mention of "government," "laws," and "regulate" starts to feel like an infringement on "freedom" to some, even if it results in saving the lives of thousands of others.
In order to purchase a firearm in Canada a citizen must take a gun safety class, pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Courses, apply for a license and pay a fee ($200 - $350), wait a few weeks to receive the license in the mail, and renew it every 5 years. Source: http://www.howtogetagun.ca/
These seem like simple safeguards, right? Other notable differences are that it's illegal to conceal carry in Canada and there is a lengthy list of specific handguns and high powered assault rifles that are are prohibited. Do these restrictions piss off some gun lovers? Yes. But they live with it and as a result, fewer people die.