Saturday, 21 July 2012

Scarborough will re-open Gun Debate

The crack of a fired gun will remind many who attended a Scarborough barbeque of death and fear. With 19 people injured and 2 people dead, police have not linked this to any gang warfare yet. The violence comes on the heels of a man being gunned down in Little Italy, and a shooting taking place in the Eaton Center.

The larger issue at play here is gun control. Personally, guns have been in my life since I was little as many members of my family hunt including my brother. I am not much of a hunter due to my impatience, but have an understanding of the laws the surround the purchase, maintenance of guns and their use. Currently, you need a separate license to hunt and own a firearm, and ensure that you own a locked metal box that contains the gun – and another separate place for the ammunition. Both guns and ammunition cannot be stored together. Handguns need to be registered, but due to the recent law change the long gun registry has been abandoned.

The question many in Toronto City Council are asking is why individuals would want to own a handgun in the first place? What practical use does a handgun have in the city? The debate did not occur as City Council voted 28 – 13 against debating whether to ban the sale/storage of ammunition and guns in the city. However, Toronto legal personnel will join the fight against destroying the long gun registry records.

The issue of gun control is quite controversial, especially in the United States. Advocates for increased gun control argue that less guns available on the market will mean less gun crimes, while opponents argue that crime is lowered in areas which allow handguns. A great site to check out is
Just Facts. The site lists some graphs which show the murder rates pre and post handgun bans in certain cities. 

The main case studies that are used in this debate are that of Washington and Britain. During the time Washington had a handgun ban in effect, the murder rate was 73% higher than it was before the ban. In Britain, the homicide rate has been 52% higher since the 1968 gun control law and 15% higher when Britain illegalized handguns. Again, in Chicago, homicides increased by 40% since their handgun ban.

I will note the popular quote “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”. This is because statistics in this argument can be used to tell a completely different story. The National Institute of Justice in the United States found a positive correlation between gun ownership levels, felony gun use and felony murder. Between 1985 and 1993, Firearm sales increase proportionally to the murder rate, while the gun being the weapon of choice to commit a murder increased from 62.4% to 69.6%. Also, many gun control advocates point to Japan as having very little guns and a very low crime rate.

So really, it comes down to opinion. Sure, the United States has the highest amount of guns per person in the world, but it also has a more violent culture. Israel’s entire population is heavily armed in case of attack, yet the murder rate is low while Switzerland also gun ownership by all military aged males and a low murder rate. This could be because these countries stress military training, teaching the holders of weapons the responsibility that possessing a firearm implies. 

To be honest, I would have to agree that training is the key for successful gun ownership. The people I have gone target shooting, trap shooting or hunting with all have been properly trained on proper gun etiquette and fully realize the deadly power that lies within a shot. The argument of self-defense is pretty moot, as the whole concept can be misconstrued. Many criminals could argue they are victims of self-defense should they shoot a home owner they are robbing who has pulled a gun out on them.

In terms of crime, I don’t think guns have much of an effect on it. It is just a tool that can be used in deviance, but that deviant nature will arise from elsewhere. I agreed with restrictions on automatic weapons, as these have no place in society and are not used for recreational purposes. In terms of handguns, it’s a difficult debate. I agree that any future gun owner should be trained and issued a license before being allowed to even hold a gun and this applies to handgun owners. Should they follow the law and lock away their weaponry, it is doubtful criminals will have much incentive to go through so much aggravation to steal a weapon. Instead, a criminal will most likely purchase a gun illegally, which bypasses all laws anyway and cannot be solved by simply banning handguns.

So in the end, I believe the laws Canada has in place are appropriate. Citizens who wish to own a gun already have to take safety courses and pass an exam for a permit, and lock their guns away. Any gang members most likely will not be motivated to go through this process, especially having their name on government files, and will simply acquire a gun illegally.

In the end, it may have been a physical bullet that killed the two people in Scarborough, but before the bullet was the deviant nature of the shooter that was created by a combination of social factors. The best way to prevent crime is to not ban the tools of the trade, but attempt to reverse the criminal attitude.

RIP to the teenage girl and 23 year old man who died in Scarborough.


Anonymous said...

great article - well positioned!!

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