Taking Aim At Gun Crime

One of the big differences between Canada and the United States is the attitude towards personal firearms. I don’t know if two nations with so much in common could be farther apart than on this issue.

Americans think it is a constitutional right to “bear arms” and woe betide anyone who tries to take away their guns. They are likely to get shot.

The so-called “right” stems from a misinterpretation of the US Constitution, but it has become so entrenched in popular culture that no politician dares call for restraint and limits when it comes to firearm ownership. To do so would be electoral suicide.

Which results in the United States being the  scene of mass shootings on a regular basis. Apparently, not only do Americans have a right to bear arms, they also have the right to kill each other indiscriminately. After every mass murder, such as Columbine or Sandy Hook, politicians say there must be change, citizens agree, and nothing changes. Anyone can buy a gun anywhere at any time.

In Canada, on the other hand, the government requires prospective gun owners to take a safety course and have a gun licence. There are strict rules regarding the handling and storage of firearms, especially handguns.

Canadians have learned to take this in stride, even rural residents who have far more use for guns than urban dwellers. It is this rural/urban divide that has brought one of the silliest policy proposals of recent years.

Canada’s Liberal government, in the 2019 throne speech, announced that municipalities and communities that want to ban handguns will be able to do so. Gun control advocates were thrilled. People who think, not so much.

Laying aside the issue of whether the federal government should devolve powers to municipalities, this still strikes me as silly. It is political posturing which will have no appreciable effect.

I say this as as someone who does not own a gun and expects never to own a gun. I live in the city – I have no need to shoot dangerous wildlife. I don’t hunt (though I am happy to eat what my hunter friends shoot). I don’t need a gun for sport shooting or target practice. But I support the rights of those who do.

Many Canadians think gun violence is an increasingly serious problem. That may be more perception than reality – we have nowhere near the gun problems the US has, given the more restricted access here to firearms.

One thing that seems obvious to me though is that, no matter what the level of violence, banning handguns will have no effect. That is because gun violence, for the most part, isn’t committed by the owners of legally registered firearms. It is criminals, using unregistered guns, that is the problem.

So how does banning handguns help anything? Will a new municipal law convinced people to turn in their illegal weapons? Will they suddenly be overcome with guilt and remorse and turn from their wicked ways because the city band handguns?

No, I didn’t think so either.

It is a great deal for the government. They give the appearance of action without actually doing anything. They can claim to be tough on crime because they allow municipalities to ban handguns.

The reality though is that it changes nothing. If there is a crime problem, maybe the government should look at its causes and address those.

It is so much easier though to blame the handguns.


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