Increasingly, I hear of a `Handgun Ban’ to solve the gang violence and mass shooter issues in Canada and it causes me trepidation. I am a sport shooter and coach who enjoys competing in the Olympic Shooting Sports. I am the President of The Metro Rifle and Pistol Club, which is well over 500 members strong. However, I am also a parent with a child, niece and nephew in the school system, a sister serving on the Fredericton Police Force, relatives serving on local Police Forces, the RCMP and working as Teachers in schools. Gun violence and mass shootings worry me, as the primary concern in my life is keeping my loved ones safe. However, I am entrenched in the fact that vilifying and/or banning an inanimate object, the ‘Handgun’ will do little to prevent violence. Outright ‘bans’ have never prevented individuals from attaining something they want. Look no further than the illicit drug trade for verification of this fact. Illicit drugs are banned; however they are more common on our streets than ever before. If a ban would prevent gun violence I, and many of my club members who are parents and grandparents as well, would gladly turn in our firearms for destruction. Statistically however it is well documented that nothing would change if I destroyed my guns, the issues would continue as the firearms criminals use are not locally sourced (CBC- Gun Statistics, 2018).
Handguns have been registered and their sale in Canada closely monitored since 1935. Just as registering cars does nothing to prevent drinking and driving; handgun registrations have done nothing to thwart violent crime. Almost all handguns used in criminal acts in Canada are not obtained from legal licensed gun owners as some sources now seem to be suggesting; hence the destruction of those legally owned and acquired firearms will do little to prevent gun violence. I have been a competitive sport shooter since the 1980`s and have met and socialized with thousands of individuals pursuing the shooting sports. I have not met anyone who sold, or had handguns stolen, that were later used in criminal endeavours; no one. Criminals guns do not come from law abiding citizens, almost without exception, criminal’s guns come from criminals. Gun owners in Canada are amongst the most law abiding citizens in the western world. Gun owners’ names are run daily through the criminal data base to ensure they haven’t been charged with a violent crime in the previous 24 hours. If they have, their firearms are immediately confiscated. In order to purchase a handgun in Canada, citizens are required to take a mandatory safety course. If they pass the course, they are required to take a second safety course covering safe use and safe storage, then undergo a criminal background check, a mental health screening and only then is their application even considered. They are then required to join a gun club and pass the clubs safety protocols; a process that can take years. We have some of the strictest gun control laws in the world (CBC-2018). The problems don’t stem from legitimate handgun owners.
In reference to firearms attainment, cocaine has been illegal in Canada for a long time. Yet, if I wanted cocaine I am certain I could obtain it in short order. It would be naive to think that the criminal importers of cocaine would not also take guns into Canada for sale if there was a market. 3D printers and CNC machines are now cheap, locally available, can and indeed are, easily producing untraceable handguns. Prior to the start of WWII, England had few military guns so they developed a machine gun, the ‘STEN’ Gun that could be built with easily sourced springs, pipes, a drill and a file; the plans are all over the internet. Also, an individual could leave Cape Breton in the morning and before dinner be in a country where they could purchase a handgun at a flea market, legally. It would be naive to think Canadian criminals interested in acquiring firearms are not pursuing any of these easy avenues of acquisition. Prohibition does not work; that was one of the rationales used recently by the Federal Government for the legalization of marijuana.
The solution to handgun violence and mass shooting I believe is twofold, short term and long term. Both require input by law abiding citizens, a solid foundation in historically verified methodologies, mimicry and education. The solution for the short term is easy, more Police on the street. Our governments need to collectively increase Police funding drastically so Police can efficiently do their job. Augmenting this should be a requirement that all trained police, military, armoured car personnel, sheriffs, and armed security professionals be required to carry their handguns off duty as well. These people are not allowed in Canada to carry a handgun unless they are ‘on the job’ even though they are proven qualified professionals. If all these professionals were required to be armed all the time, instead of just at work, we would increase the number of qualified professionals, ‘good guys’ with guns protecting citizens by over 10 fold. It would cost the Canadian taxpayer nothing to do this and our society would be by far safer.
If history proves anything it is that more ‘good guys’ with guns trumps criminals or ‘bad guys’ with guns when responses to violence are required. The only reason the Nazi Party did not succeeded in Europe was because many of our parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts became part of a group of ‘good guys’ with guns that traveled overseas to defeat the ‘bad guys’ with guns. Currently our Canadian ‘Peace Keepers’ are deployed worldwide doing exactly the same thing, good guys with guns preventing bad guys with guns from causing violence against innocent civilians. When our veteran’s returned home after war and Peace Keeping Deployments they don’t gravitate towards crime because of their familiarity with firearms, they maintained their honourable status as law-abiding citizens. Switzerland, as referenced in TIME Magazine, has followed this model of societal protection for centuries and even though it is one of the most armed countries in the world, every citizen between the ages of 18 and 65 has an assault rifle at home; it has the lowest crime rate in the world. It is time to mimic this component of Swiss culture in Canada.
For the long term, education, engagement, cultural understanding and mental health should be the focus, especially with our youth. Mass shooting, like many gang shootings, have the same common denominator; a person usually, a younger male detaches from mainstream society and uses a gun or now commonly, a van to commit violence. Many of our detached youth that don’t commit violence against others choose self-harm; since 2000 suicide is one of the leading causes of death in Canadian youth. This is unacceptable. It should be an ongoing focus of the Mental Health Community to reassert their focus on understanding why many male youth are detaching from the main stream and seeking violent ends; and they should get the funding to accomplish this imperative task. Their findings should be continually forwarded to educators who can effect change. This is not a new or revolutionary concept, Education works.
In the 1970’s when I became interested in Hunting there were ample firearms related injuries with multiple fatalities annually during the hunting season. At that time, after considerable study, the NS Dept. of Natural Resources admirably took the initiative to implement a Hunter Training Program. The result of the implementation of this training was that firearm related hunting accidents decreased annually to the point that there has been all but one death since 2005. Education has been historically proven to effect change; Education works.
In the recent past Iceland had the highest rate of youth detachment, substance abuse, and increasing youth violence in Europe. Icelanders relied upon the education of youth and families in the values of personal interactions with family, friends, culture, and sport to rescind these issues. In addition, the Government of Reykjavik provided families a Leisure Card ($5050.00 Canadian per year) for families to use towards fees incurred when their children participate in sports, arts, dance, music and other extra-curricular activities that interest them. Iceland turned around their youth issues in short order and now has the highest percentages of psychologically and physically balanced youth in the western world. It should be noted the Leisure Cards are mostly funded by saving accrued from the surplus of Healthcare agencies since the implementation of these youth programs; youth no longer required as much hospitalization and treatments saving the citizens money which was funneled back to the Leisure Cards (atlantic.ctvnews.ca/).
If Canadians truly have an interest in scaffolding a viable solution to gun violence in Canada, the use of common sense and methodologies that have proven track records is the only way to achieve success. Vilifying inanimate objects will do nothing to protect our loved ones. It will buy politicians votes in the short term but in the long term, the violence will become worse. We owe it to our youth to provide them with a stable platform to begin their life, a culture removed from senseless violence, just like Switzerland and Iceland.
Parent, Teacher, Gun Owner