December’s arrival has moved the yuletide season into high gear. The time of happiness and goodwill will be intruded on tomorrow, however, for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
It may not be the ideal season for such thoughts – really, when is? – but the timing was dictated by Marc Lépine, who on Dec. 6, 1989 murdered 14 young women at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal simply because of their gender.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada was established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada. As well as commemorating those women who have died as a result of gender-based violence, the day is seen by the federal government’s Status of Women organization as a time to work on concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
Gun-control advocates are using the day to take the Harper government to task for its moves to weaken the long-gun registry, accusing it of playing politics with a worthwhile system that has been tarred as a financial boondoggle. While that characterization cannot be denied, supporters note that we would be simply throwing away more than a billion dollars’ worth of work by scrapping the registry now.
Instead of going in that direction, gun-control groups are pushing for even more restrictions on gun ownership.
On the other side of the argument, gun advocates will argue for greater access to guns, saying armed civilians could have gunned down criminals such as Lépine and other notorious school shooters before their killing sprees continued.
The latter arguments are commonplace in the U.S., where second amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – issues abound. In Canada, the notion seems ridiculous: having more guns at hand increases the risk. It would be far more likely for someone to see red, snap and use a readily available gun than it would be for someone to be faced with a murderer on a shooting rampage.
According to the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control, the U.S. gun death rates are far higher than other industrialized countries, and among the highest recorded in the world. Statistics from 2006 indicate the U.S. had 10,177 gun homicides compared to 190 in Canada.
While Canada and the U.S. have comparable rates of homicides without guns (1.26 per 100,000 versus 1.61), the American firearm homicide rate is almost six times Canada’s (3.4 versus. 0.58 per 100.000); the U.S. handgun homicide rate is almost eight times Canada’s (2.60 versus 0.33 per 100,000).
The U.S. also has five times the rate per 100,000 of robberies committed with firearms even though rates of robberies without guns are comparable.
Those kind of statistics depict a major difference between our neighbouring cultures.
Not, of course, that we’re immune from such tragedies, as shootings here show. Still, we operate under a different mindset than do those in the States, where politicians must be pro-gun, or at least not come out in favour of gun control. That kind of thinking would not fly here: even the gun registry debate was more about waste and graft than about the guns themselves.
Gun-control advocates, arguing that more guns equals more violence, want us all to think about the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in that light.