[As published at OpenSalon.com: the Gun Control Yenta wants Prime Minister Harper and his government to know that, though we are deeply concerned about the economy (and, hey, didn't President Bush recently prove tax cuts won't stimulate the economy?), we are as concerned as ever about other social issues. To wit, gun control...]
The interesting thing about staring down a gun barrel is how small the hole is where the bullet comes out, yet what a big difference it would make in your social schedule.
P.J. O'Rourke, Holidays in Hell (1989)
While the chattering classes do their thing over Mr. Harper’s having prorogued parliament, the government would do well to remember that Canadians are concerned about more than just the economy. For most of us, with apologies to P.J. O'Rourke, gun control is no joke.
In September 2008, the Prime Minister said
I don’t think by registering every shotgun or long gun or having further restrictions on weapons you’re going to deal with gun crime. I think it’s gun crime we have to deal with, not some duck hunter with a shotgun.
While the Prime Minister raises the spectre of Keystone cops chasing Elmer Fudd from his duck blind, the truth is far darker. In case he doesn’t know it, rifles and shotguns are the firearms used most often to threaten women and children, and the weapons of choice in the murder of police officers. Many are stolen from legal owners, and they’re also frequently seized from gangs. Here are just a few “highlights”—lowlights, actually--proving
- An 8-year-old, using his father’s .22 calibre rifle, wounded his 9-year-old friend while playing “guns” in the basement of a house on Manitoulin Island (ON).
- Cody Wellard, a 31-year-old hunter, turned himself in for allegedly shooting the Jack Russell terrier pup of Max Rose, a 12-year-old brain cancer survivor. The Quadra Island (BC) shooting—occurring 30 meters from the Rose family's driveway--may be related to a previous run-in Wellard had with the boy's father. Following the shooting, the RCMP confiscated 25 guns registered to Wellard's father.
- A teenager in Whitby (ON) contacted police as her distraught stepfather locked himself in a closet with a rifle, while threatening suicide. Police found 26 firearms in the house, all of them legally registered.
- Jesse Imeson, found guilty in November of a triple murder in
- In December 2006, a nurse was shot with a rifle by her estranged husband, previously convicted of uttering threats against her, in Brockville (ON).
- A man shot his wife before killing himself with a legal shotgun returned to him at the end of a 2-year weapons prohibition for domestic assault in 2006, in Hermitage (NL).
Those in the gun lobby who repeat the foolish mantra that we must target “criminals” and not “law-abiding gun owners” should wake up and smell the coffee: legal gun owners may well be entirely law-abiding--right up till the moment that they're not. After all, Marc Lepine, Valery Fabrikant, and Kimveer Gill were all “legal” gun owners.
Since the passage of controls on rifles and shotguns in ‘91 and ‘95, the rate of firearms deaths has fallen to ‘91 values, with 500 fewer such deaths annually. In 2007, the rifle and shotgun murder rate was almost 80 per cent lower than in ’91, and the rate of robberies with firearms fell by 68 per cent in the same period. There’s only one possible conclusion: gun control works.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and major safety and health groups continue to support the firearms registry, which is consulted by police almost nine thousand times each day. Critics say the searches are triggered automatically whenever police run a license or address check. But the value of the registry was underlined following a botched 2007 drug raid at the Montreal-area home of Basil Parasiris that left Constable Daniel Tessier dead. When a police investigator checked the registry prior to the raid, he entered only the suspect’s address; it turned out one of Parasiris’ four guns was legally registered—but under an old address. Had the investigator searched under Parasiris’ name, the SWAT team would have been called to conduct the raid, and Const. Tessier might still be alive (procedures and training have been adapted as a result of a workplace health and safety commission inquiry).
Stephen Harper and the government of Canada probably have their hands full over the next couple of months, juggling the economy, national unity, and the new Senate appointments. It may be tempting to slip a little red meat to as-yet-unassuaged Conservative gun-loving supporters. But that would be a mistake. Because, with apologies to James Carville, for most of us Canadians, “it’s not just the economy, stupid!”