Ottawa typically has an easy route to gun-control laws

Last updated on May 04, 23

Posted on May 04, 23

2 min read

Tightening gun-control laws is always an easy sell in Canada. Unlike south of the border, there is little political risk in such moves.

In fact, the daily stories of gun-related tragedies in the US make it that much easier to pass stricter measures here.

Bill C-21 is the latest Canadian gun-control legislation. The bill takes aim at assault rifles, large-capacity magazines and handguns. The role of firearms in domestic violence is a particular focus.

While the Trudeau government knows its legislation is a non-starter in certain parts of the country and among certain voters – indeed, that government’s very existence is anathema to them – it does offer some mollifying language to hunters and legal gun owners. There is no hint of the kind of divisions seen in the US – legislation that passes easily here is light years beyond even the tamest changes almost impossible to implement in the land of the Second Amendment.

Gun ownership is tightly regulated in Canada. In the US, obtaining guns is laughably easy by comparison. That includes handguns, which are strictly controlled in Canada, and weapons that are banned entirely here.

Mass shootings are almost daily occurrences in the US. The most egregious bring calls for gun control measures. In Canada, such shootings are rare, but also generate support for tighter controls.

The situations are much different in the two countries, however. There, advocates have difficulty making headway on something as simple as background checks, let alone something along the lines of banning assault rifles, as we see here.

Gun-control advocates on this side of the border have an easier time promoting restrictions to what are much, much tighter regulations in this country every time there is a notable shooting.

Canada has tighter controls, part of the reason the number of firearms in the country is 35 per 100 residents, which seems high but pales in comparison where the corresponding figure is 121 weapons – more than one per person.

There are some 390 million guns owned by civilians in the US, and about 40 per cent of Americans own a gun or live in a household with one. Not coincidentally, the US has the highest rate of murder or manslaughter by firearm in the developed world – that translated to 11,000 deaths in 2017 alone.

While Canada and the U.S. have comparable rates of homicides without guns (1.79 per 100,000 versus 1.35), the American firearm homicide rate is five times Canada’s (3.8 versus. 0.69 per 100.000); the US, handgun homicide rate is seven times Canada’s (2.83 versus 0.39 per 100,000).

The US also has 5.8 times the rates 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.

We also react differently when mass shootings occur. Rarely will you hear in Canada that the solution to gun violence is to make more guns available. The good-guys-with-guns arguments are commonplace in the US, 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 spree.

The risks associated with having a gun at hand are clearly on display in a rash of recent incidents in which commonplace activities – getting lost and turning around in a driveway or knocking on the wrong door, for instance – turned deadly.

Had the perpetrators of such violence not had a gun readily available – or not at all – then there’d have been nobody shot in those cases. More generally, had a gun culture that glorifies weapons and spawns the likes of stand-your-ground legislation not existed, there would be no such incidents.

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