I try to tune out the white noise that is generated by assorted gun prohibitionists as I learned there is nothing to gain in engaging in futile quarrels with them. Certainly, it bothers me when they spout their nonsensical assertions and point their fingers at hunters, sport shooters and collectors, spewing vitriol and denouncing them as the enemies of humankind. I always knew there were people who disapproved of gun ownership and hunting, but thought of it as their problem. If you do not like guns, do not keep them and if you disapprove of hunting, do not go hunting and if you are a landowner, you are free to post your property against hunting. If only it were that simple. In reality, however, Canada’s gun owners find themselves in a very precarious position. Beginning with the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 (S.C. 1968-69, c. 38) in 1969, continuing with amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada, Bill C-51 in 1978, Bill C-17 in 1991 and Bill C-68 in 1995, Canada’s gun owners are now saddled with the Canadian Firearms Act. In the span of 26 years, Canada’s gun owners have seen their freedoms to own and use their property for lawful and safe past-times such as hunting and sport shooting, drastically curtailed and the character of the gun owner defamed brazenly by an array of public and non-governmental associations.
The push for gun prohibition in Canada was stepped up following an isolated act of insanity at the end of the year in 1989. A homicidal maniac went on a killing spree in an engineering school in Montreal, killing fourteen women, before killing himself. I remember being as horrified as anyone else upon hearing the news of this tragedy, but was completely overwhelmed by the emotional response that followed. I fully expected people would be upset, but the vilification of gun owners that followed, the extent and the fury of the vilification was disturbing and hard to comprehend. Suddenly Canada’s gun owners became the “gun lobby” who possessed “firepower” and were somehow to blame for the actions of one demented individual who never owned a gun before in his life. As the victims in this tragedy were women, the fury was directed at men in general, men who own and use guns in particular. I remember one of the first comments I heard, following the tragedy, was from a woman representing some women’s group whose name I cannot recall. The woman angrily asserted “we have to change the way we are raising little boys.” I was really offended by this remark. It does not follow that because one madman goes on a killing spree and happens to target women that all men are culpable.
Gun prohibitionists shamelessly exploited this tragedy and the assertion that gun prohibition and ending male violence against women were one and the same. In 1991, the Sub-Committee on the Status of Women, chaired by Barbara Greene (a Progressive Conservative MP in the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney), of the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, Social Affairs, Seniors and the Status of Women in Parliament issued a report entitled The war against women. Among the recommendations listed in the report is the following:
The Committee recommends that Parliament revisit the issue of gun control, and introduce legislation that will be stronger in the following specific ways: that gun ownership be reaffirmed as a privilege, and not as a right; that the privilege of gun ownership not be granted to persons who have been convicted of crimes against the person or other serious offences; that the minimum age for gun ownership be raised from 16 to 18 years; that semi-automatic weapons be made restricted weapons; that all weapons be required to be registered by type and serial number on the owner’s Firearms Acquisitions Certificate (FAC); that a FAC be required for the purchase of ammunition; that a national data base of gun owners and guns be set up; that women and non-gun owners be included in the process of defining safe storage requirements for guns and that the safe storage requirements be enforced; that all assault weapons be removed from circulation; and that the necessary resources be allotted to each of these initiatives. (The war against women)
Aside from attacks on the character of gun owners, gun prohibitionists keep repeating the assertion that reducing the number of guns and making them harder to get (at least lawfully) will lead to a reduction in gun related violence. When I am confronted with this assertion I am quick to ask “how many fewer guns must there be before we can expect a measurable decrease in gun related violence?” As the quote that is the title of this article demonstrates, gun prohibitionists have no evidence to support this assertion. In the absence of any evidence to support this assertion they typically rely on statistical correlations to misrepresent reality. Most notably what they claim is that the high rates of gun ownership in the United States and the supposedly weak gun control laws in U.S. society are to blame for the high rates of gun related violence in that society. However, this assertion is found wanting when rates of gun ownership and gun related violence are viewed globally. Data gathered by the Small Arms Survey, located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland easily refutes this assertion.
In 2007, the Small Arms Survey gathered data on rates of gun ownership and gun related violence from across the world. While it is true the United States had (in 2007) and still has a high rate of gun ownership, an average of 88.8 per 100 people and approximately 270,000,000 guns in civilian hands, with 60%, at 9,146 homicides by gun, Jamaica had a higher rate of homicides by gun 75.6%, at 1,080 deaths, with a rate of gun ownership of 8.1 per hundred people and approximately 215,000 guns in civilian hands. Similarly, in Honduras, the rate of homicides by gun was 83.4%, at 5,201 gun deaths, with a rate of gun ownership of 6.2 per hundred people and approximately 500,000 guns in civilian hands. Switzerland had a rate of 72.2%, at 57 gun deaths, with a rate of gun ownership of 45.7 per hundred people and approximately 3,400,000 guns in civilian hands. In Canada, the rate of homicides by gun was 32%, at 173, with a rate of gun ownership of 30.8 per hundred people and approximately 9,950,000 guns in civilian hands. (as cited in the Guardian)
Beyond railing at the “gun crazy” United States, gun prohibitionists employ an emotionally laden nomenclature in referring to guns and the people who own and use them lawfully and peacefully. Terms such as gun “nut,” “gun fetishist,” “red neck,” “assault weapon,” and “gun violence” probably sound familiar. They also exploit mass shootings such as the one that took place at the engineering school in Montreal, shamelessly standing over the bodies of the fallen trying to make every gun owner guilty by association. I learned over the years to steel myself against these tactics, to not take the bait when a prohibitionist slanders gun owners in giving a comment to the news media or in publishing an inflammatory op-ed article condemning gun owners and the “gun lobby.”
I remain committed to the fight for the repeal of the Canadian Firearms Act. As a librarian, my forte is records and research. I apply my skills in this capacity to gather evidence and offer dispassionate and reasoned arguments in reaching out to people who will take the time hear me out and hopefully be persuaded by the evidence and logical argument I present to support the cause. As I stated in the opening of this article, I tune out gun prohibitionists as there is nothing to gain in engaging in futile quarrels with them.
Posted by Geoffrey