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Thom Barker: This column is about gun control

Thom Barker
Thom Barker - Submitted

As the age-old unresolvable debate about guns heats up south of the border following the mass murder of 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, there is also a showdown brewing here in Canada that is largely flying under the radar.

It may be that our American cousins are beyond redemption when it comes to guns, but it is a very important issue north of 49, one we must be vigilant about lest we fall into the deleterious patterns of our southern neighbours.

Make no mistake, there is a powerful and aggressive gun lobby in Canada that wants to take us down that very path to American-style gun laws, or rather, the lack thereof, and they have their hooks in the new leader of the Conservative Party.

We need to make it clear to Andrew Scheer—who, much to my chagrin, does have a real chance of someday being prime minister—that the last country in the developed world we should be taking our gun control cues from is the United States.

The horrendous body count down there—121 dead by mass shootings alone in 2018 not to even mention all the individual murders, accidents and suicides—has nothing to do with Americans being more violent than other people. Take Britain and Wales, where gun laws are more restrictive even than they are in Canada. Violent crimes per 100,000 population in the U.K. are more than double the U.S. rate. The murder rate by firearm, however, is 3.6 compared to 0.06.

In other words, while you are statistically twice as likely to be involved in a violent crime in the U.K., you are more than 60 times less likely to be killed by a gun than in the U.S.

The only difference between the two countries is ease of access to deadly weapons. The statistics are irrefutable, although the NRA does endlessly refute them.

In Canada, perhaps not surprisingly given our proximity to the States, but historical ties to Britain, our laws, and death count, are somewhere in between. Our violent crime level is similar to the U.S., but we are 18 times less likely to be murdered by firearm. That is three times more likely as in the U.K., however.

So, going forward, which country should we be trying to emulate?

When I write about gun control, I like to stick the next bit deep in the article because the way the gun organizations work is to identify gun control articles and writers and put out the word to attack. Then a portion of the membership spews vitriol at me by email and on social media saying I am anti-freedom and an ignorant shill for anti-gun activists without ever having read the piece.

In fact, I am not anti-gun at all. I am a gun owner.

I do not mind that I had to take a gun safety course to apply for my licence. I do not mind that I had to go through a (not very rigourous) background check and wait six weeks to get my licence. I do not mind that I have to present that licence to purchase firearms and ammunition or that I have to carry it when I transport my weapons. I do not mind that I have to follow some simple safety rules regarding how I store my guns and ammunition at home and how I transport them.

Frankly, anybody who does mind these very sensible and reasonable regulations, I have to regard with some suspicion.

I even understand the appeal of restricted weapons such as handguns. When I lived in Texas, I shot everything from little .22 pistols to semi-auto 9mms to .44 magnum revolvers. There is no question they are fun to handle.

I do not mind that there is a separate category and licence for those types of weapons and an even more rigourous process to acquire, possess and transport them.

Perhaps it is not unreasonable to discuss tweaking administrative aspects of our gun control system, but to aspire to an American-style free-for-all is ludicrous.

All in all, I think we’ve struck a pretty good balance in Canada. The laws are not so restrictive as to be prohibitive, but not so loose as to be indiscriminate.

Let’s keep it that way.

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