5. Concluding Remarks

John Ralston Saul's bestseller, Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West offers a biting commentary on the declining competency of criminal justice legislation in western democracies and a painful and direct analogy to the gradual devolution of firearms control in Canada:
"Over the last hundred years, our thin legal codes doubled in thickness, then tripled, then quadrupled. As justice took hold in detail, so it seemed to become more demanding, and so further legislation was required. Along the way something peculiar happened. Our languages gradually proved themselves incapable of absolute concepts. The propositions of justice laid out in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had seemded perfectly clear. The subsequent inability of legislators to write legal sentences which could capture these propositions was, at first, blamed on incomplete policy decisions. By the late 1950s, this excuse was wearing thin. Each new law, no matter how well drafter, failed to acheive the marriage of principle with application. Further laws were required to plug the holes which inexplicably appeared or to extend the regulation to areas inexplicably excluded. And each additional law created not fewer, but more holes" [1].
In discussing the Canadian and Italian elections of 1993, The Economist made the perceptive comment that they represent something new in politics. The voters were no longer choosing which recognized political elite would form the government. There were ominous signs that the votors had lost faith in "elites" and were withdrawing their consent to be governed at all. Prohibition, excessive regulation, and punitive taxation, all result in increasing levels of civil disobedience and withdrawal of support for laws, lawmakers, and law enforcement.

When laws are reasonable, fair, and just, they have public support. It's unfortunate that governments pass more laws than they repeal. They constantly seek new area to control - whether that control is warranted or not. All too often governments are seen as using unpopular laws to enforce social engineering methods formulated by non-elected technocrats which have no proven track record.

Our existing gun control system is expensive and there is little empirical evidence that it accomplishes anything worth the money that is spent on it [2]. Prohibitionists refer to the "protection" it affords us from the perceived social ills of the United States, but this assumes that the only significant difference between Canadians and Americans is their gun laws.

It would be easy to ignore everything that has been presented and adopt the prohibitionist stance that even if one life is saved by gun control, it's worth everything that it costs. This viewpoint is examined by Professor Gary Kleck:

"This argument is convenient for gun control proponents since it relieves them of the need to establish just why they consider a gun-linked problem to be serious or to demonstrate that their proposals will save a large number of lives... Almost any plausible gun control measure is bound to save at least one life, somewhere, sometime in the future. Therefore, it is implied, only a cold-hearted monster could deny the wisdom of a policy that could save that life.

"There are two problems with this argument. First, it ignores the costs of gun control, in particular the possibility that gun control could cost lives by denying effective defensive weaponry to at least a few people who need and could successfully use guns in self-defense - almost any control that saved lives could also cost at least one life... Second, most major social problems have multiple possible solutions, each costing something, and each having some potential for reducing the problem. However, since resources are limited, choices inevitably must be made as to which strategies the resources should be invested in. More resources devoted to some strategies means less available to others. Consequently, the adherents of one particular strategy are obliged to at least roughly assess the potential benefits that strategy would produce rather than merely arguing that it does not matter whether a proposed policy would save one life of 1000 lives. It is unlikely that many people would seriously argue that a problem resulting in 1000 deaths is no more important than one resulting in one death, so numbers do matter. In any case, it is doubtful if advocates really believe to the contrary - most invoke the 'one life' argument only when one of their numerical claims regarding the harms of guns is challenged as being inflated" [3].

Money spent on additional gun controls and ineffective registration schemes creates an obstacle to better public safety. The funding that these policies require can be put to far better use promoting a visible culture of responsible gun use and combating the causes of crime: racism; the culture of drug/alcohol abuse; substandard treatment of the mentally ill; the film and television industry's exploitation of violence for profit; and the inadequate imprisonment of violent criminals.

The recreational firearms community in Canada is proud of its record of decades of firearms safety training - a record earned through dedication, commitment and hard work, not political rhetoric. We respectfully request that the governments of this country recognize the leadership role the shooting organizations in Canada have taken to promoting the responsible use of all types of firearms. We want to assist in further reducing the number of firearms deaths and injuries through expanded courses in the safe handling and storage of firearms, offered on a cost recovery basis to all Canadians.

"Because gun availability, even among high-risk individuals, seems to have at best a modest impact on violence rates, gun controls only nibble at the edges of the problem rather than striking at its core... Continuing to delude ourselves that dramatic crime reductions can be acheived through the criminal justice system will doom us to ineffectuality, and to suffering the costs of undiminshed violence, crime, and poverty" [4].

Kleck, Point Blank

"It would be useful, therefore, if some of the mindless passion, on both sides, could be drained out of the gun-control issue. Gun control is no solution to the crime problem, to the assasination problem, to the terrorist problem. Reasonable licensing laws, reasonably applied, might be marginally useful in preventing some individuals, on some occasions, from doing violent harm to others and to themselves. But so long as the issue is kept at white heat, with everyone having some ground to suspect everyone else's intentions, the rule of reasonableness has little chance to assert itself" [5].

N. Bruce-Briggs, The Great American Gun War