Gun Control in Canada- What’s the Solution?

We aren’t like the United States with its Second Amendment, nor do we have the level of gun violence per capita that they experience, but with a recent mass shooting in Canada, our government is making moves to try to show that they are doing more than paying lip service to the issue, but their choices are being heavily criticized. The problem is, I don’t see better solutions being put forward.

Note: I want to preface this by saying that I am not an expert in law, gun law, guns, or anything else pertaining to this subject. I am a concerned citizen hoping that cooler heads can prevail, that logic and data can win out, and that partisan politics can be put on the back burner as we deal with weapons affecting our society.

My Quick History with Guns

I grew up going hunting with my dad. I have enjoyed hunted venison meat my whole life. I was in Cadets and was able to shoot guns during my time there. I have some experience with guns, but all of it happening before adulthood. I still have an interest in shooting, especially on a range, but haven’t pursued it.

Complaining

Everything I’ve seen online seems to be complaints. They don’t like what the Liberal government is doing and blame Trudeau directly. They talk about starting a civil war, dividing the country, fighting back with armed protests. The whole thing is ridiculous to me and the radicalization talk will do nothing but convince the media to create stories to prove that even more restrictions are needed. It also makes me feel a little sick to my stomach to see so many people willing to throw away their connection to Canada over gun control.

One of the biggest issues I see is the conflating of different issues. Bringing alcohol, vehicles, tobacco, cancer and other random things into the issue doesn’t do anything to move things forward. It confuses the issue and gives power to those that are more focused. Gun issues should be addressed through gun related data. It isn’t a competition where society/government can only deal with a single issue that tops the list of most deaths.

Also, giving up on anything changing for the better, no matter which side of the issue you are on, is also not beneficial. Our society leans towards being democratic and so through proper use of your voice, your efforts, you can help bring people towards a better understanding that may help swing things in one direction or another. We all also have to understand that as a democratic leaning country, we need to accept that we won’t always get the things we want as the majority rules.

Complaints about the direction our country takes are fine, but once you are done complaining, how about trying to learn more about what the other side is thinking, dissect it and then visualize a different path, and promote that? There are so many options going forward and it doesn’t have to be partisan, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Banning Scary Weapons

Trudeau and his team are making a political move to ban certain guns. I understand the reasoning behind this action. Movies, television, and more have shown these guns to be more dangerous than other weaponry, and they can’t be seen as doing nothing when one of the mandates they campaigned and were elected on was more strict gun control.

Some people I know have called it “banning scary weapons” and that’s exactly what it is. It isn’t a solution as much as something to calm the fears of a certain group of people, and maybe that’s one part of this story that isn’t getting enough attention. Why are we scared of guns?

Maybe one issue that needs more support is reducing that fear through marketing, educating, and training? If our only source of gun information wasn’t in violent video games, action movies, and horror stories in the news, maybe there would be less fear and that would allow for more rational dialog on this topic?

My nephew-in-law was very proactive in this sense. He often invited people to the range to build up their confidence and understanding regarding guns. He even, using a toy, helped my wife learn a bit more about how guns work, safety procedures required, and more. He created a positive interaction in order to reduce fear.

Spending money towards these kinds of opportunities and making an understanding of guns similar in terms of numbers as understanding how to drive a car, could be beneficial if done right.

Central Gun Storage

One of the ideas proposed has been central gun storage. I thought this was a great idea. We could spend resources as a country protecting guns at ranges and at facilities across the country so that no guns need be stored at a private residence and anyone walking around carrying a gun that isn’t wearing a badge can easily be stopped and questioned because they are likely doing it illegally.

It could be treated like a safety deposit box, or a self-serve system, with your government ID being used to access the weapon that either has to remain on site using some geo-fencing tags, and/or allow for short period check-outs for specific purposes. We could record the person that checked out the weapon and have more insight into what’s happening with handguns and other weapons.

Then I read some criticisms of central gun storage and started to understand why that wouldn’t help the issues we are experiencing and only create a huge tax burden on the federal government while inconveniencing legal gun owners.

But maybe the idea isn’t all bad. Is there some version of this that could work and be beneficial? What is the goal of this kind of change? These are the kinds of discussions we should be having.

Increase CBSA Resources

The more research that I do regarding gun violence, the more I see that most of this is happening from guns illegally brought to Canada from the USA and elsewhere. Sure, there are some legal or registered guns being used but that is in a very small minority.

So if the data says that most gun violence is due to guns coming from other countries, then how can we address that specific issue? We might not be able to ever completely stop smuggling, but how can we make it more rare, more difficult, and more costly to those that are caught?

We have a federal department that deals with border transit called the Canadian Border Services Agency. With increased funding and a stronger mandate to reduce gun smuggling, maybe we could see a reduction in gun violence in Canada?

Limiting the supply of non-registered weapons in Canada might have directly affected the recent violence in Nova Scotia.

Conclusion

As a country, we should go where the data leads us. We need to be fair, even, and wise when enacting new restrictions. There will always be people on both sides of an issue that are unhappy with any change or any lack of change, but the constant is that the world changes and so the rules have to change with it. If cities are seeing increasing gun violence, we need to track down the sources of those guns, we need to track down the reasons for that violence, and we need to take measured approaches that solve the core of the issue. If poverty is creating an increase in gun violence, maybe we need more social supports. If passion/relationships are causing gun violence, then maybe we need better mental health supports.

I will also say that, as a citizen of Canada, I would like to see a further reduction in the number of guns owned by private citizens as, at least for me, it creates an increase in a feeling of safety and that feeling of safety improves my mental health and outlook. But I think education and data supported changes should be the goal over blanket laws that have already been shown to not fix the issues we, as a society, want to see dealt with.

Walking – April Health Challenge

In April, Annie and I decided to move a bit more. I probably do around one to two thousand steps per day, but could I ramp that up to two-hundred thousand in a month?

As I do with most challenges, the first part was the easiest. I was doing nearly ten thousand steps per day for a week, while Annie, who was still working on school work, was doing around seven thousand per day. We aren’t really competitive with each other, but we hoped that comparing and contrasting would keep us engaged in the challenge.

By the end of April 15th, I was at 105,665 steps, a little past the half-way point in both steps at the half-way point in days. I felt fairly confident that not only was I going to be able to complete the challenge, but I was going to go well over. Annie, now finishing up school, started to increase her pace. She was the only one of us to get days over 10,000 steps and she ended the month with three such days.

I know these numbers are small compared to what others are able to do. You know who you are!

Anyways, by the end of the month, we both only had a few steps left to go, and we both completed the challenge. Annie finished a day early with over ten thousand steps on April 29th to cross the finish line, and I finished on the last day of the month.

May Challenge – Journaling and Gratefulness Log

In May, Annie and I are going to journal each day at least one hundred words, and include at least one thing we are grateful for. The goal is to try to keep our spirits up during the pandemic that never feels like it is going to end, as well as trying to remember how lucky we are.

Self-reflection, taking time to audit how your day went and how you want it to go tomorrow, can be a very positive mental exercise, and not one I’ve been taking time to do lately.

I love writing, but with how busy I’ve been lately, this might actually be a difficult challenge for me. I’m hopeful that at the end of the month, I have at least thirty short write-ups of how my month went.

Tracking Mood – March Health Challenge

In March, Annie and I decided to track our mood several times a day on a scale of 0 to 10 to see how we were feeling. Little did we know the world was about the change. I had long wanted to do mood tracking and when I mentioned it to Annie, her eyes lit up as it fits with her schooling in Psychology.

It took a bit to find an application that worked easily and allowed for a larger scale than just a one through five that most applications seemed to have. In the end we settled on Mood Log created by AR Productions.

Starting March 1st at eight in the morning, we started tracking when we woke up, at eleven in the morning, two-thirty in the afternoon, six-thirty in the evening and then before bed, typically around eleven at night. I felt like that five data points per day should give enough insight into how we were feeling, but the application only allowed for three reminders per day maximum and those reminders were silent, with just an icon showing up on our phone’s status bar, so we had to set-up alarms.

By the end of the month, I was very happy to turn off those alarms.

Over the month of March, I collected 154 data points. My average mood ended up being a 5.6 out of 10, which is higher than I had expected. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for over twenty years now and so I assumed that at best I would get an average of around 5, so to get through the month self-assessing at an average of 5.6 seems great to me.

As you can see from the above image, I did have some down points as well as some high points. I never reached a zero, as in my mind that was “I give up, I’m going to completely shut down” and a ten was a level of elation that I’d save for something super special, but nothing ever happened that pushed me to either extreme. I do know that one of my tracking points that shows a nine out of ten was due to finding out our offer on a house got accepted, but I’ll talk more about that soon.

You can, however, see a noticeable dip around March 21st, where I found it difficult to stay positive. Previous to this challenge, I had been ranking myself on a positive five to negative five scale which fits on this scale very nicely with five being a middle of the road, not positive, not negative moment. So to see so many data points below that mark was a little rough, but I was honestly feeling really rough around that point. I don’t think it was specifically related to what’s happening in the world, but I know that it didn’t make it any easier to deal with my “Darker mind”.

Annie averaged a much higher 6.5 over the course of the month, but felt that was lower than she was expecting. It is interesting to me the perspectives we have on the data we collect. Another interesting thing to me is that her tracking never fell below four, so while she did have some data points that were her not feeling great, she didn’t have the emotional range that I seem to go through. She couldn’t say for certain why that was other than to point out that most of her tracking first thing in the morning, where she’s unhappy to get up and get out of bed, might have skewed her results lower than she anticipated. She also went through a down slide near the end of the month as we geared up for quarantine. As someone that’s an extrovert, this whole change has been very hard on her.

In the end, I feel like we learned some interesting things and we will have to spend more time pouring over the data we collected.

April Challenge – 200,000 Steps

In April, we are doing a step challenge, which wasn’t my first choice for this month, but the state of the world means that I don’t have access to the apartment gym.

Our goal is 200,000 steps over the course of April. This shouldn’t be too hard, except that we can’t go mall walking, we don’t have anywhere to go when walking, so all of our walking is pretty much just taking Luna out around the back streets late in the evening.

This whole pandemic thing can stop any time now…

Avoiding Added Sugars Retrospective – February Health Challenge

In February, we tried to avoid added sugars. This meant that we could have things like 100% orange juice, but not many other things. You’d be amazed at how many things have sugar, but also how poorly you can still eat without added or processed sugars.

My wife continued to join me in this challenge and struggled near the end of the month. We both had a few days where we failed for the day, but overall, I feel we did quite well.

Over the twenty-nine days of February, I had two days where I failed to avoid added sugar. One was my sister-in-law’s birthday cake and the other was that some of my Big John’s Beef Jerky had some added sugar that I didn’t realize until Annie told me. Sure the sugar in the jerky was really low, but I still counted it as a fail day.

One of the interesting things from this month was getting used to reading labels. We should all be doing that anyways to get a better understanding of what we are putting into our body.

This month wasn’t crazy great for weight loss, but I did seem to lose some over the course of the month. I started the month at around 277 pounds and ended it with a weigh in this morning at 271 pounds, so around a six pound loss. Based on the trend-line of the month though, I think I’m probably closer to around 273, which would still be around four pounds down, or about a pound a week, and that’s sustainable.

I didn’t have too many points where I felt ravenous about sugar. I had lots of fruit, veggies, no-sugar added juice, and the odd little bit of honey. I gave in on honey for a number of reasons, and I think it made it possible to succeed over the course of the month.

I made oatmeal, banana, strawberry muffins a few times. I got the recipe from Bebe and Bear. It is a modification of a recipe found on greenlitebites that swaps out chocolate chips for strawberries. I made a few changes though, so here’s my recipe.

Malcolm’s Honey Sweetened Strawberry Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Yield: ~12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup of 2% milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped frozen strawberries

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mash the bananas with the rolled oats. Course mash is okay, but you want the oats to look wet.
  3. Mix in the other ingredients, leaving the strawberries for last and mix well.
  4. Fill up your muffin tray and bake for around 25 minutes.

Notes

We used quick cooking rolled oats, and that seemed to work fine. We also liked how having the higher fat in the milk made the muffins taste, but the original recipe calls for unsweetened vanilla almond milk instead. And of course, the more ripe the bananas are, the more of a sugar kick you get from them, and the lower the amount of honey you’ll need to make it have flavour.

The first time I made these, I did it with a teaspoon of honey, the bananas were not very ripe and I didn’t put in enough vanilla. It ended up tasting like a block of dry oatmeal without other flavours. I was pretty bummed but felt that I should eat them because they were healthy and filling. My other batches turned out better, so you’ll have to play with the recipe based on your preference.

March Challenge – Mood Tracking

In March, Annie and I are going to track our mood. We are going to grab five data points per day and then we can plot out our mood over the course of a month. For me, this is a check in to take a moment to reflect on how I’m feeling more often and to have data showing that my meds are not only working but that I am having more good days than bad. This is a mental health month.

This doesn’t mean that we won’t be looking for opportunities to eat better, and I know Annie has other elements she is considering for her health in March, but the process of a year of health continues.

Conclusion

I highly recommend everyone try at least a week without added sugars and see how that makes them feel. I think today, Annie and I might go a little overboard compensating for our month without, but I hope once we get that out of our system, we can continue to eat more fruit and veggies, and avoid added sugar here.

Retirement Savings and Depression

I never expected to live this long and now as I near forty, I am freaking out a bit over the idea of living into retirement.

When I was in my twenties, I got married, we bought a house, I even took a government job far from that home to try to set us up for a good life. I tried to be fairly frugal but still racked up some debt. I constantly was in my own head, fighting with myself over every little mistake or setback. When that relationship fell apart, I put myself in more debt to move and start over.

I lived in a tiny furnished room in someone else’s house. It was cheap and worked well for the nothing that I owned. I had a decent job and made okay money, but I hated myself and my life and went back and forth between self-sabotage through poor money management and trying to buy my way into happiness. I continued to be in debt and not save anything.

Years flew by and life continued to ebb and flow, then I married Annie and we started our life together. I still struggled with depression and still spent like a fool. No investing, no saving, just spending.

Now, here I am at thirty-seven. I thought I wouldn’t make it into my twenties. I was once confident that I wouldn’t survive past twenty-five. I thought for sure I wouldn’t make thirty. I am quickly realizing that I have to contend with the likelihood of being around for a good long time.

You know what’s frustrating about that though? Realizing what retirement might look like. I play around with different retirement calculators and they all basically say the same thing. If I want to save for a decent retirement for Annie and I, I’ll likely need to invest around one third of my income until I retire, and since I’m at the upper end of what someone with my skills can likely earn, that’s a bit difficult given the cost of living we currently have.

Don’t get me wrong. Annie and I have a fairly comfortable and happy life. I am not complaining at all. We don’t want for much, but that’s potentially part of the problem sometimes, isn’t it? We don’t want to live in a crummy apartment with roaches or bed bugs. We don’t want to drive a decade old vehicle that isn’t reliable. I don’t want to try to do my job on an Internet connection that would only be considered fast in a third world country.

In some ways, through surviving what I have dealt with, I feel a little like I deserve some comfort. I’m sometimes afraid that creating too much discomfort and sacrifice might make my depression worse.

My hope is that when Annie is done school and begins working that we will be able to save more aggressively to make up for the lost time we’ve had, otherwise retirement won’t ever be an option. The power of compounding interest is being ever reduced by our life delays… I have read a bunch of articles though that makes it sound a little like this is the plight of my generation.

Wallace – My Artillery (Evnovo) Sidewinder X1

So today, I received the main part of my new 3D printer set-up, the Sidewinder X1.

This isn’t the 3D printer I thought I was going to get, but I’ll get to that story soon. I’ve been wanting a 3D printer for several years now and watching the features increase and the price decrease until last year when I decided to do my 1 Million Calories Challenge, I included a small thing where I decided my reward for hitting my goal was going to be a 3D printer.

Intermittent Fasting Retrospective – January Health Challenge

In January, I decided to try intermittent fasting to see if it would help me lose weight and feel better. I decided to do something difficult and stick to a 18/6 schedule where I don’t eat for eighteen hours per day, and only eat for six.

My wife joined me in this challenge, while working on her own additional health challenges. With her school schedule, there were difficult days where she had to break fast early or eat a bit later than expected.

The goal was to only eat between noon and six in the evening. Most guides on intermittent fasting say that you should start with something easier, with the goal to have at least twelve hours of non-eating time so your body can work to clear out all the sugars and carbohydrates you ate.

The biggest thing that I learned in doing this health challenge was that I’ll have to revisit intermittent fasting when I have a better control over my eating.

Basically, for the first week, it was great. We were cooking our meals, focusing on healthy food, lots of vegetables, and then it took a slide into crappy eating. It likely doesn’t really matter much how short of a window you give yourself to eat if all you do is stuff yourself with high calorie, high sugar, high processed carbohydrate foods, and that’s basically what ended up happening.

I’d get to noon and feel ravenous. My willpower would be next to zero and I’d eat junk to satiate myself. I’d eat until I was nearly exploding and then do it once more around four in the afternoon to try to get in as much food as I could to make it until noon the next day.

I am pretty certain you can see why this is dumb.

It wasn’t just a willpower issue as that would be overly simplistic. It was also a time and energy issue. I work from home, but I’ve been very busy lately trying to juggle many different projects. Annie is back in school and focusing on that. Between the two of us, we just don’t have the interest in managing the process require to purchase, prep, cook, and clean for meals each day, especially since we weren’t thinking and planning ahead.

If we were smarter, we would have had a meal plan, we would have prepped ahead of time so that at noon, we would have had healthy options at the ready. Instead, it was like runners at a gate, waiting for the gun to go off to signal them that they can sprint away, except instead of a track field, it was chips, pop, donuts, candy, juice, bread, noodles, and cold cuts and instead of running, it was like competitive eating.

So, was it a failure?

Well, I was able to stick to the schedule, every day except three. On the ninth of January, I broke thirty minutes early to eat some fresh from the oven cookies that I had made. On the twenty-fifth, I finished Annie’s Coke at my aunt and uncle’s place after the normal cut off time. And on January 31st, I broke an hour early to have fresh from the oven cinnamon buns that I made before Annie had to head off to class.

As for my weight, I didn’t gain, but I also didn’t really lose any. I went from 278.8 pounds at the start of January to 277.9 pounds at the end of January. A loss of less than a pound and thus, a statistical nothing.

The hardest part of this whole thing was not snacking in the evening. After a long day of work, wanting to unwind with eating something or watching a late night television show or even YouTube video, and I wanted to munch on something, anything…

I don’t remember ever feeling like I was going to bed hungry, but I do remember waking up feeling hungry on more than one occasion.

Would I do this again?

Yes. I’d like to maybe try again later in the year using what I’ve learned and hopefully, finding a month where Annie is not in school, my schedule is a bit more reasonable, and planning meals and healthy options ahead of time. I think I could be more successful with intermittent fasting than I was in January, but I am also proud of the small victory of sticking to the timing for twenty-eight out of thirty-one days.

February Challenge – No Added Sugar

As for February, we are going to try to do a no-sugar added month. This doesn’t mean no sugar or no carbs, but instead avoiding added sugars or processed sugars in our foods. So we could eat a steak, potato and corn, but we couldn’t drink juice with it unless it was fresh squeezed with no added sugar. The one thing that I gave my wife was that she could have honey. Because it isn’t a processed sugar in the same way as maple syrup, I told her that she was good to go.

We will also be looking at reducing our overall carbohydrates during February. I am hopeful that, even if I don’t lose any weight, that maybe the weight I do have won’t be so concentrated on my gut.