It’s been a bad few weeks; two dead and five wounded in the Eaton Centre shootings, 2 dead and 23 injured in the recent Scarborough shootings, 12 dead and 53 injured in the Colorado nightmare. Daily, we are subject to the horrors of gun violence in our cities. I am by no means an authority on the issue of gun control, but would offer a few reflections.
There are many essential differences between Canadian and American gun laws, but the proximity of the two countries coupled with the high frequency of illegal smuggling of firearms to Canada, ostensibly “homogenizes” access to firearms in both countries. According to a recent RCMP report, “The United States is the primary source for smuggled firearms or firearms parts entering Canada, due in part to its close proximity, differences in gun control legislation, and a large firearms manufacturing base.”1
Consider some facts. As of 2010, there were 7,646,699 registered firearms in Canada.2 Canada ranks 13th in guns per capita. The U.S. ranks first, with approximately 3.5 times as many guns per capita as Canada. Of course, a major difference between the two countries is the registration requirements for guns, the availability of handguns in the U.S., and the fundamental difference that Canadian gun laws are federal, while in the U.S., they vary state to state, but with the overall constitutional philosophy of the right of Americans to bear arms.
Obviously, there is no direct correlation between the availability of guns and the incidence of gun-related violence, and indeed the vast majority of gun-owners are law-abiding citizens, who use guns responsibly. That being said, it’s hard not to point a finger at the issue of gun control in the face of recent tragedies. In 1989, the Montreal murderer, Marc Lépine used a Ruger Mini-14, to kill 14 women and injure 14 others. The Ruger Mini 14 is the kind of gun normally used by hunters to kill gophers, groundhogs and rabbits.3 The fact that this semi-automatic rifle is available for purchase today, from Cabela’s Canada for $1399.99, is to me, staggering.4
I do know that the complexities of gun control, the controversy over gun registration, the difference between owning a hunting rifle and a handgun, the lack of correlation between gun availability and violent crime, make the issue anything but black and white. But for goodness sake, the culture that promotes gun ownership, the frequency of the glorification of the use of handguns in popular media, and the ever present horrific events like the killing of two innocent young people in Scarborough last week, speaks to the need for greater gun control.
Notwithstanding the complexity of the various facets of the debate, Canadians need to intensify their efforts towards toughening our gun control laws, accelerating our efforts against illegal importation of guns, toughening our stance to criminals who use guns, and trying to promote an anti-firearm culture in Canada.
If you have any views on this issue, please respond to this blog, or better yet… stop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.