Anti-Gun Law Outlook: Today’s Gun & Gang Summit, and Beyond

7 Mar 2018

6 min read
Canada Ralph Goodale Gun and Gang Violence

Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale opens Summit on Gun and Gang Violence. Source: Ministry

TheGunBlog.ca — The Canadian government is getting ready to propose the first anti-gun laws since the punitive Firearms Act of 1995. Here’s what happened at today’s gun and gang conference in Ottawa, and an outlook for what’s next.

Background

  • In the 2015 election campaign, the Liberal Party ran on plans to impose new restrictions on the import, purchase, sale and transport of firearms. The party won a majority in parliament and now controls government.

What Happened Today

Spinning Two Key Points

The government used the conference to pump two themes as a pretext for new anti-gun policies:

1. “Rising gun crime”

But … stats don’t show that. They may show a gang problem that has gotten worse since the Liberals took power in 2015.

  • Canada has 2 million men and women who safely and responsibly own 10 million to 20 million rifles, shotguns and handguns. If there were a gun problem, everyone in Canada would know.
  • Stabbing has exceeded shooting as the leading method of murder in 7 of the past 10 years, according to Statistics Canada. Stabbing tools were used to kill 33 percent of victims in the period, compared with 30 percent for firearms and related tools.
  • After a drop in gang violence for almost a decade, Canada had a surge in gang-related murders in several cities in 2015 and 2016, according to StatsCan. Attacks in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver led the 2016 increase.
  • Gang murders jumped from 65 in 2013 to 121 in 2016, Lynn Barr-Telford of StatsCan said at today’s conference. Gangs almost always use guns for their murders, she said.
  • The rate of gang-related homicides has quadrupled in the past 20 years.
  • Toronto Mayor John Tory told the conference today that police estimate 65 percent of murders in his city have a known connection to gangs, and only 2 percent have no known connection to gangs.
  • Canada may have a gang problem, but not a gun problem.

Canada Gang Homicide Murder

2. “Rising domestically sourced crime guns.”

So … prove it, and show why it matters.

  • For years the mantra was that criminals were smuggling their guns from the U.S. In the past year, police have spoon fed stories to the media about bad guys getting guns from inside Canada through straw purchases and theft.
  • The mayor of Toronto wrote an article in the Toronto Sun yesterday that played on both of these themes. He’s failing to contain his city’s surging gang violence, and blamed it on what he called “Canada’s growing gun problem” and “domestic gun trafficking.”
  • Here’s what StatsCan said in the slide (shown below) at today’s conference: “What we don’t know: the origin of firearms involved in gun crime in Canada.”
Anti-Gun Law Outlook: Today’s Gun & Gang Summit, and Beyond

Screenshot: Statistics Canada slide presentation

Canada Leadng Method of Homicide

Comment

  • What We Need. Fewer assertions and more evidence. Evidence that authorities are doing the maximum to stop criminals. Evidence that criminals have shifted from foreign to domestic sources for their guns, and reasons why it matters. Like-for-like comparisons, percentages, crimes, locations, reasons, charges, convictions, data sources. And let’s see evidence that the new policies would help.
  • What We Don’t Need. More laws. Punishing 36 million peaceful Canadians with new restrictions and paperwork won’t prevent any attacks. But it’s a heck a lot easier than going after a few hundred dudes who might shoot you.

Stabbings Exceed Shootings in Most Years, But Who Cares

What Happens Next

  • Anti-Gun Bill. Goodale presents his package of new laws after parliament resumes for the spring session, either March 19-29 or after April 16.
  • Content. The laws will address the Liberal Party’s remaining plans from the 2015 election campaign, adding paperwork on buying, transporting and importing guns. For imports, the laws may fix the flawed Firearms Marking Regulations, perhaps accepting guns be marked with a serial number instead of the complex and costly process that was adopted in 2004.
  • Timing. Even with their parliamentary majority, it could take 12 months for the bill to go through all the required committees and reviews and become law, and possibly 18 months or more. That would land it just in time to become a campaign issue.
  • Official Comment. A spokesman for Goodale declined to comment on the specifics of the planned legislation or its timing when contacted yesterday by TheGunBlog.ca.

Reasons to Hope

  • Miracles. The government may find the Holy Grail that boosts safety, stops crime and helps millions of honest people continue to responsibly enjoy hunting and sport shooting.
  • Painful Memories. The Liberal-led government knows its anti-gun Firearms Act of 1995 cost them parliamentary seats in the 1997 election. They want to avoid a repeat.
  • Language. Goodale has avoided portraying gun owners as would-be-criminals. He has been careful to talk about reducing crime and avoiding unfair treatment of lawful firearm owners.
  • Popularity. Goodale is the most senior member of parliament in cabinet, he has the biggest portfolio of responsibilities and is the country’s No. 2 official behind the prime minister. He won’t squander his standing on an unpopular, ineffective bill.
  • Reputation. Goodale will be 70 in the next election. Whether he decides to run or retire, he’ll want to avoid burning himself, his colleagues and constituents back home in Saskatchewan, which has many rural electoral districts and more than 100,000 voters who hunt and shoot.
  • Content. The new law may be good for all, or may be so mild that it turns into a non-issue. (The Globe and Mail said it might allow authorities to speed up licence reviews. Whoopty doo.) The government may have concluded that its campaign proposals wouldn’t stop crimes or increase safety, and may instead propose measures that would.
  • Election. With an unpopular government and an election in 20 months, the Liberals may want to avoid entering a campaign having just angered millions of voters. The government may even propose a warm and fuzzy new law to win over voters who had feared something worse.

Reasons to Worry

  • Majority. The Liberals have a majority in parliament. They can pass any law they want.
  • Nothing to Lose. The Liberals know that many gun owners are hostile to the party, but don’t sway opinions or elections. The party campaigned on an anti-gun platform and won a majority.
  • Lots to Gain. Hostility is high toward gun owners among many politicians, media, police, labour unions and the public. The Liberals could seek to profit from this.

  • Sacrificial Lamb. Goodale will be 70 in the next election. If he decides to retire, he may be willing to take one for the team and stick his neck out for a law that would be unpopular among many gun-owners in his home province of Saskatchewan.
  • Test the Waters. This may turn into the first anti-gun legislation since the Firearms Act of 1995. It could serve as the latest test of the unity, strength and political influence of Canada’s hunters and sport shooters. We haven’t always scored well on such tests in the past.

Bigger Issues

  • Laws don’t prevent crime. They allow us to prosecute and punish criminals, generally after they’ve punctured their victims. But no killer has ever cancelled a hit because he didn’t have the paperwork.
  • Punish All Canadians? If the government chooses to impose new laws on all 36 million Canadians because it’s failing to manage a gang problem, it’s essentially treating everyone in the country as a potential murderer. Not nice.
  • Too many rules kill the rules. Like taxes, we’ll gladly pay them up to a point. Beyond that point, we go out of our way to avoid them. If the government squeezes honest gun owners with too many constraints and too much paperwork, more of them will find ways to keep their guns off the books.
  • Focusing on the tools of violence is interesting, but secondary. It’s convenient to blame murder on an object and ask, “How did he get the gun?” It’s harder and much more important to address complex personal and social causes and ask, “Why did he choose to murder?”

What We Can Do

  • Contact elected representatives to express our concerns.
  • Support political parties that support gun owners and that might get elected. Vote for them.
  • Support shooters-rights groups and send money. Support this website.
  • Take family and friends shooting. Help them get a firearm licence. Then help them get guns. Then help them get trained.
  • Buy guns.

The most important part of gun rights isn’t “gun,” it’s “rights.”


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