Guns: America can learn something from Canada
We need a sensible conversation
Gun advocates in America keep saying that guns don't kill people, but the fact remains that the easy availability of guns in this country make it a lot easier. It would stand to reason that logical people would want to look at comparative nations and make changes to our existing laws so people are made safer from gun violence, but there is nothing logical about the gun debate in America. However, for argument sake, let's compare the US to our neighbor Canada.
Many Canadians own guns. They are avid hunters and range shooters, but Canadian gun laws are stringent and getting a gun is an arduous process and a big responsibility. The first thing that Canadians have to do to own a firearm is go to a class. Then they apply for a license where they list personal references. Those references are then checked to see if the person applying is known to be responsible or is prone to violence. There is also an extensive background check. Then all firearms have to be licensed and there is a national registry. After all these steps are completed, there is at least a 28 day waiting period.
James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter, who killed 13 people and wounded 58 others would have been stopped from buying his arsenal if these laws were in place in the US. Holmes was clearly mentally ill and would have been stopped from buying guns legally during a thorough background check.
This system stops what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) calls 'straw purchases'. This according to the ATF is how most criminals get their weapons. This is how William Spengler, Jr. got his weapons. Spengler was the man who killed his grandmother and was convicted of manslaughter In 1981. On Christmas Eve last year, he killed his sister, set his home on fire and waited for firefighters to come. He then shot and killed two firefighters who responded and wounded two police officers. He later turned the gun on himself. His weapons were purchased by his 24-year-old neighbor, Dawn Nguyen. She is under arrest.
This would also stop immediate purchases of weapons at gun shows and the sell of guns between individuals. This is another way that criminals such as street gangs acquire weapons. Illegal resellers have no scruples and buy weapons and sell them to anyone. This would cut down on the senseless killings in cities like Chicago and Detroit because it would make it more difficult for street thugs to get guns.
Another element of Canadian gun laws is the safe storage and personal responsibility for YOUR weapons. If a Canadian has a gun stolen, they are fined $20,000 and are not allowed to purchase guns again. The ATF says 10-15% of guns criminals acquire are stolen. Canadian guns are hardly ever stolen.
This may not have stopped Adam Lanza but it could have slowed him down. If his mother had a gun-safe it may have made it more difficult for him to get the weapons he used to kill 26 people in Newtown. It definitely would have helped stop Nehemiah Griego who massacred his entire family with weapons in the home.
The 800lb. gorilla in the room is that there are 270 million guns on the street in America. That is 88 guns per every 100 people in the country. Law enforcement officials agree that it would be impossible to get those off the street or make owners register them. Buy backs often fail because they are sabotaged by gun advocates. This is what happened in Tucson after the Gabrielle Gifford shooting.
However, what do the numbers say about violence in Canada and the US? In 2006-2007 there were almost 1200 deaths by firearm in Canada. 80% of those were suicides. There were only 173 homicides by firearm. In the United States, during that same period there were over 31,000 deaths by firearms and over 16,000 of those were suicides. Almost 10,000 of those were homicides.
There are other factors, but we are talking about guns. Americans are at a crossroads in the gun debate and we need to begin have a sensible conversation about guns. No one wants to take your guns. It is your right to own them but it is our right to be safe from them.