1. Firearms and Firearm Owners in Canada

1.0 Introduction

Few social policy issues in this country generate the emotional energy, diversity of opinion, and level of public misinformation as the one on "gun control". In recent years, demands for further restrictions on firearms and firearm owners have become increasingly common and extreme. Government officialis introduce "tough gun laws" believing that the non-gun owning public will perceive these initiatives as "...doing something about crime" and are perplexed by the legislationıs subsequent inability to reduce the levels of violent crime and firearm-related violence.

Itıs been easy for the government to justify additional firearm controls. A quick reference to the crime situation in the United States, followed by statements from government officials about how more "gun control" is needed to prevent a similar situation from happening here, are superficial but effective. Canadians know that the crime situation in the United States has deteriorated. Itıs described on television every night. In actual fact, however, Canadians know very little about crime, firearms, and firearms laws south of the border, and we understand even less the interation of guns within our own society.

The Canadian government introduced more firearm control laws between 1977 and 1991 than it had in the preceeding 50 years. Each new law takes something away from the law abiding gun owner that is never returned, and the recreational firearms community in this country now perceives gun control as little more than a "one-way street".

Canadians have lived with restrictive gun control got so long that few individuals, whether academic or layperson, ever question if it's had any effect on violent crime, suicide, or firearm accidents. That it "works" is simply taken for granted. Decades of exposure to a popular mythology surrounding firearms, imported by American media, make an objective analysis of our situation even more difficult [1].

Professor Gary Kleck, criminologist at Florida State University, describes the contradictions between left- and right- wing political thought that characterize the firearms control issue:

"Radical scholars... have asserted that gun laws are fundamentally conservative or even reactionary, having in times and places served a variety of conservative political functions beyond simple crime control, including (1) increasing citizen dependance on the state for protection, (2) facilitating repressive action by governments, (3) reducing popular pressures for more fundamental reforms that might reduce crime, and (4) enabling selective enforcement against dissident political groups and racial and ethnic minorities. In sum, it is by no means clear that the intellectually natural position for liberals is support for restrictive gun control or that the natural position of conservatives is opposition [2]."
Firearm prohibitionists maintain that gun control will reduce violent crime, suicide and gun accidents; that there is increasing public pressure for more restrictive laws and a strong correlation between "easy" access to guns and firearm deaths. Beyond colorful anecdotes of gun-related accidents, their evidence is conspicuously lacking that the restrictive gun controls they propose has succeeded in reducing violent crime, suicides, or accidents in any locality in which they've been tried.

Every type of "gun control" has been attempted somewhere, sometime - from waiting periods, registration and prohibitive licensing, to outright prohibition. The Canadian government has never identified any correlation between a certain level of restriction and the amount of crime controlled, or undertaken even the most rudimentary cost-benefit analysis of the effect their gun legislation has on the social fabric of this country [3].