June 28, 2008
Why can't we protect ourselves?
By Joseph Quesnel
Events in the U.S. and Toronto highlight differences between our two countries on firearms.
As Toronto city council bans shooting clubs within city limits, the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling validating private gun ownership as constitutionally protected , overruling a restrictive D.C. law banning handguns. Canadians have an interesting relationship with guns. Canada is home to millions of firearms and our level of gun ownership of 22% is close to France and Sweden, yet we speak about them with terror and pretend guns are something only Americans own.
Our association of America with guns runs deep. Who can forget the segment on telelvision about Sam Steele of the Mounted Police where he informs the American, "men don't wear pistols in Canada"? The gentleman is then escorted to the border, all the while complaining, "why didn't I shoot him?"
Torontonians speak scornfully about guns because the only time they hear about them is when they are used in convenience store muggings. Growing up in rural Northern Ontario, guns were benign, as they were used to hunt our food, protect ourselves and livestock from harmful predators, and helped put down injured deer on the road.
It bothers me when I hear Toronto city councillors tell shooting clubs they don't want them "in their city."
Toronto's ban is irrational as it fails to tackle urban gun crime. Canada should look to the United Kingdom and elsewhere to see that firearm control bears no relation to gun crime prevention. Our own gun registry has done nothing to stop gun crime.
For Mayor David Miller, empirical evidence doesn't matter; only feelings count.
Urban folk believe gun ownership is so unimportant it warrants no protection. Their argument is if you're not a police officer or a soldier, guns aren't necessary, so we should be able to ban or regulate them as we see fit. The issue then is where does this mentality end? What other things do my neighbours have a right to say I have no right to own, despite them not affecting you. This is about urban fear of weapons.
There are arguments raised that criminals steal legal weapons from gun collectors, so we must ban them. This clearly creates injustice. This says that even if I follow all the laws on weapons storage and do everything to keep my weapons from falling into wrong hands, I will be punished for what a third party engaging in illegal activity does?
Canada has a problem with the idea of weapons for self-defence.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision validates this right. Now, before Canadians assume Americans fired M-16s in broad daylight to celebrate, this ruling does not give an absolute right to gun ownership. Bans on military weapons stay in place, as they are not connected to routine self-defence, and state regulations are upheld. Our country may not need a Second Amendment, but it must understand that sometimes Canadians avail themselves of firearms to protect themselves and their families. At a minimum, individuals who use weapons to defend themselves in reasonable situations need legal immunity.
This is what we can learn from this American ruling. Surely we can get over our Americanophobia enough for that.