The term assault weapon comes up frequently in media reports on guns in society. The term has its origins in the 1980s and is credited to Josh Sugarmann executive director and founder of the Violence Policy Center (VPC) and noted prohibitionist. Prior to founding the Violence Policy Center in 1988, Sugarmann served as communications director for the National Coalition to Ban Handguns (renamed the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) in 1989). The term assault weapon entered common parlance after Sugarmann authored a publication entitled Assault Weapons and Accessories in America in 1988. Sugarmann and the Violence Policy Center are among those advocates of prohibition who frame the argument that prohibition is a matter of public health and safety, that this trumps the individual right to own and use guns. In their effort to advance this agenda, prohibitionists resort to the underhanded tactic of framing the debate in a manner that confuses the issue, causing people to quarrel over what is they view as good guns vs bad guns. Continue reading
A shooting at a sawmill in Nanaimo, British Columbia on April 30, 2014, has left two men dead and two in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds. The gunman, a 47-year-old former employee, is in custody. The murder weapon is a shotgun. I will not be surprised if prohibitionists use this tragedy to step up their complaints that it is the “availability of guns,” that it is too easy to get a gun, as to what is to blame for such incidents. “Availability” or “access to guns” is commonly held as a problem in the ranks of prohibitionists who tirelessly assert this claim. Researchers have tried to test this theory that there is a causal link between the availability of guns and deaths and injuries by gun. The difficulty for researchers studying this theory is in generating data that can be tested using scientific research methods. However, their inability to find a causal link between the availability of guns and deaths and injuries by gun has not stopped prohibitionists from advancing their belief that such a relationship exists. Continue reading
How often am I confronted with the assertion that “a gun is for killing?” Invariably this assertion is used by prohibitionists in debates and discussions over gun ownership. It is intended to end the debate or discussion in putting those who argue in favour of gun ownership on the defensive. The expectation is you will have to reply with “yeah, but…” This expectation is nonsensical, of course; it is a common fallacy, the argument from ignorance. Those who put forth the assertion “a gun is for killing” insist it must be true as it has yet to be proven false. Is this assertion true? Are guns for killing? If this question demands a yes or no answer, then the answer is no, guns are not for killing. In short, a gun is a device that fires a single projectile or with a shotgun, many smaller sub-projectiles, or one large projectile. However, the answer to that question is not that simple; it requires a more nuanced response. Continue reading
In an effort to prop up the Canadian Firearms Act imposed on Canadian gun owners by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Anne McLellan was appointed as the Minister of Justice in 1997 (a post she held until 2002). In propping up the Canadian Firearms Act the Ministry of Justice came up with the slogan Aiming for Safety for the promotion of the Canadian Firearms Program, a component of the Canadian Firearms Act. I remember all this at the time and then as now when I review the transcriptions of Anne McLellan’s public pronouncements on creating a “culture of safety and responsibility around the ownership and use of guns” I still register shock and disbelief. Is she really that obtuse? How does making gun ownership a crime, enabling bureaucrats to prohibit makes and models of firearm arbitrarily and demanding that hunters and sport shooters register themselves and their property with the state do anything for safety and responsibility around the ownership and use of guns? In short, it does nothing of the kind; Aiming for Safety is nothing more than a euphemism for gun prohibition.
There have been a number of school shootings in the past several years. Of the various school shootings the only one where I can recall where I was and what I was doing when the news broke was the one that took place at Columbine High School in Colorado on April 20, 1999. I was working for Canadiana in its offices at the National Library National Archives of Canada at the time. I was searching for books in the library stacks and another employee had a radio on. News that there was a shooting at a high school had been relayed and the radio announcer was assuring listeners that the school shooting was not in Ottawa. Twelve students and one teacher were killed in the rampage, with twenty-four students injured before the gunmen, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, committed suicide. Since then there have been a number of shootings in schools, Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007 and Sandy Hook Elementary School, on December 12, 2012, for example, in which children and young people were murdered, in each case by a mentally ill individuals in unlawful possession (with the exception of Seung-Hui Cho who lawfully acquired his firearms) of the guns used in the shootings. These tragedies are exploited shamelessly by gun prohibitionists who insist that it is guns that are the problem and thereby it is gun owners who are guilty by association. The typical refrain is something along the lines of “if not for those selfish gun nuts who refuse to give up their deadly toys, those children would still be alive.”
I bought my first gun in a private sale, back in 1977 when I was sixteen. As it happens, 1977 was a turning point in the regulatory framework for gun owners in Canada; it was the last of the good old days for gun owners in Canada. The familiar classification system for firearms was in effect (non restricted, restricted and prohibited). This was enacted in 1969 with the passage of Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 (S.C. 1968-69, c. 38), which, coincidentally, also decriminalized homosexuality. In 1977 it was unlawful to sell guns to individuals of unsound mind or those under prohibition orders, otherwise Canadians were free to own and use guns for hunting, sport shooting and collecting without having the state on their back. As the Minister Justice, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, observed in shepherding the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 through parliament, “obviously, the state’s responsibility should be to legislate rules for a well-ordered society. It has no right or duty to creep into the bedrooms of the nation.” (as cited in Wikipedia) In 1977, just as the state had no business in bedrooms of the nation, neither did the state have any business in the basements and gun cabinets of the nation.