Changing Canadian gun laws after American mass shootings is foolish

It’s a bizarre turn that happens pretty much every single time there is a mass shooting that makes headlines south of the border. Canadian politicians and activists attempt to use what happens in America as a reason to call for gun bans or increased gun control in this country.

Let me be clear, what happened in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas was awful. They are two very different mass shootings carried out by men with two very different ideologies. Neither one of them is acceptable or excusable.

I’ll let Americans debate what the problems and the solutions are in their own country but when it comes to our country, any attempt to change our laws based on American incidents is simply wrong.

Canada’s gun laws already contain most of what American gun control advocates call for.

  • Mandatory background checks
  • Mandatory safety training
  • Police screening
  • Must show licence and be checked with each gun purchase
  • Automatic firearms are banned
  • Handguns and restricted rifles are still registered
  • High-capacity magazines are banned for handguns and most rifles

None of that will stop the calls for bans or stricter laws so let me deal with some of the false claims that are being made or will be made in the coming days.

If we just ban handguns we will be safer.

This may sound good but all this would do is remove handguns from law abiding citizens that have passed the safety course, passed the background checks and police screening and registered their guns. Yes, all legally owned handguns are required to be registered. The guns used in the shootings in Toronto over the weekend were most likely not legal guns. No safety course or background checks were passed and they were not registered.

Some claim that gun bans in the UK and Australia have worked and so it will work here. A big difference is that those two jurisdictions are surrounded by water while Canada shares the longest undefended border in the world with the biggest gun market in the world. Most of our crime guns are smuggled in from the United States, taking handguns away from law abiding citizens won’t change that.

If we ban all semi-automatics we will all be safer.

I’ve had countless conversations with people that say we need to ban semi-automatic rifles and then prove that they don’t know what a semi-automatic is. You can’t spray a room with a semi-automatic. You can’t fire hundreds of rounds per minute with a semi-automatic. With a semi-auto you fire one bullet for each time you pull the trigger. Pull, release, pull – that is what you have to do. 

Banning semi-automatic rifles, most of which are restricted to magazines of 5 rounds each, would mean banning every rifle that isn’t a bolt action rifle, the type used about a century ago and still in use today. We don’t have a mass shooting problem like they do in the United States, these are not the guns typically used in crime, calls to ban them have nothing to do with public safety.

If we ban assault rifles we will be safer.

There is no definition of assault rifles. Yes, the United States had an assault weapons ban between 1994 and 2004 but the definition used cosmetic features for the ban.

Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:

  • Folding or telescoping stock
  • Pistol grip
  • Bayonet mount
  • Flash hider or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
  • Grenade launcher

None of those elements change the lethality of the rifle in question. In essence this is the type of ban that is put in place to make people feel good, to make them believe politicians are acting but in reality they not actually doing anything.

Several studies into the 10 year-long assault weapons ban found it had no impact on reducing crime including studies published by Oxford University, the American Medical Association and the National Research Council.  THose studies suggested other gun laws may help reduce violence but the assault weapons ban did not.

Different countries, different cultures.

Canadians love to show that they are different than Americans. Many times we overstate that difference and ignore how closely intertwined our cultures are.

That said, when it comes to gun culture, Canada and the United States are very different countries. We already have gun laws in place that far surpass anything they have in the United States.

The gun problem in Canada is one of crime, not target shooters or hunters. Criminals using smuggled guns that they buy on the black market and that already violate countless other gun laws. Those people will not abide by any of the bans discussed above.

If there are sensible steps that can be made to make Canadians safer then I’m all for having that conversation but copying the cries of American activists won’t do anything in this country.

Let’s have a discussion based on facts. Let’s focus on the real problem, criminals and not law abiding gun owners.