One gun law added on

Gun pictureI don’t think Canada should adopt U.S. gun laws.

We could, however, stand to move closer to the American ethos behind the 2nd Amendment and their approach to restricting (or not) firearms.

We Canadians often pride ourselves on our peace-minded ways. We are proud of the Pearson legacy of peace-keeping. We remember fondly the civility of our Old West under the watchful eye of Sam Steele. We were created by the nib of a pen, not the barrel of a gun.It is this legacy that reinforces our current approach to gun control. With dropping crime and a lower murder rate than our southern cousins, the approach has served us well… for the most part.

But no gun control policy is perfect. The existence of Wiebo Ludwig bears witness to this fact. Canada has felt the sting of gun tragedy, sometimes at such serene locales as  Mayerthorpe or Taber–places that, generally, are a testament to the peacefulness of Canada.

It is easy to argue that relative rarity of these tragedies is a testament to Canadian gun control, but this is mistaking the the effect for the cause. It is not gun control that makes Canada what it is; it is Canadian society that leads to the relative peaceful nature of our nation. Yes, it is the same society in which gun control has flourished, but we have gun control because of our inherent aversion to guns. Our aversion to guns is not a result of our laws; we are not so easily manipulated by our legislators.

Even though we tend to enact legislation in response to tragedy.

Canada’s most notorious killing spree was conducted with a Ruger Mini-14. It’s a hunting rifle and it’s a non-restricted firearm in Canada, even two decades after being used in a mass killing. Our current gun control laws would have done nothing to protect us from that madman.

In another infamous mass killing, Denis Lortie shot up the Quebec legislature. He was a corporal in the Armed Forces. Again, neither the gun laws of 1984 nor the gun laws of today would stop a soldier from being able to acquire a weapon. It is said that hard cases make bad law, and our lessons from the past quarter century are a testament to that.

The reason that the implementation of these well-intentioned laws that would not even have stopped the madman in response to whom they were created are bad laws is because the burden–the hardship–is borne by those doing nothing that can reasonably be considered wrong. It is the members of civil society who wind up charged and in jail, while the madmen and criminally-inclined are deterred not a whit.

Port Colborne, Ontario, is another of the idyllic Canadian spaces. I know; I’ve been there. Two and a half years ago, it was the scene of a fire-bombing. Ian Thomson, a law-abiding resident, had been having some troubles with a neighbours chickens. Tensions escalated:

The incident began six years of trouble for Mr. Thomson that culminated early one Sunday morning last August when the 53-year-old former mobile-crane operator woke up to the sound of three masked men firebombing his Port Colborne, Ont., home.

“I was horrified,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what was happening. I had no idea what was going on.”

So Mr. Thomson, a former firearms instructor, grabbed one of his Smith & Wesson revolvers from his safe, loaded it and headed outside dressed in only his underwear.

“He exited his house and fired his revolver two, maybe three times, we’re not sure. Then these firebombing culprits, they ran off,” said his lawyer, Edward Burlew.

What is the reasonable expectation when a man chases off bomb-throwers? One would expect a thorough police investigation to catch the three masked men. Naturally, the police were concerned with that, but they were also interested in Mr. Thomson:

The local Crown attorney’s office later laid a charge of pointing a firearm, along with two counts of careless storage of a firearm. The Crown has recommended Mr. Thomson go to jail, his lawyer said.

It’s not just so-called “vigilantes” who are targets of Canada prosecutors. Bruce and Donna Montague decided to let their firearms registration in an effort to spur a constitutional challenge to Canadian firearm legislation. Yes, they are guilty of the paperwork crime of not registering their firearms, but they were never a threat to anyone. There is not even a vague notion that they handled their weapons unsafely or were any sort of threat to the community, yet they have been severely punished.

First, Bruce was sentenced to prison… yes, he was to be locked up for this minor transgression.

Second, he can never own a firearm again, which is ridiculous; his crime had to do with bureaucracy, not violence or safety. Imagine if you were to forget to renew your driver’s license on time (guilty!) and, as a result, you were never allowed to drive again. That would be a disproportionate punishment.

Though clearly excessive, these two punishments may not rise to the level of cruel and unusual, however as a final kick at the Montagues when they were down, the government has confiscated their gun collection, worth $100 000.

Essentially, for this paperwork crime, the government has legally stolen $100 000 from this family.

Our bloated gun laws are clearly ridiculous. They are over-reaching, unconstitutional and venomously vindictive. Whatever our intentions, we are hurting upstanding citizens while protecting no one. In a reasonable world, the Charter does not need a 2nd Amendment. Though attractive, it should be unnecessary. Canadians, historically, have shown sufficient clarity in our approach to public policy–coupled with sufficient, yet restrained, constitutional protection–to be able to handle the matter gun control in a wise and fair manner.

Our level-headed-ness should continue to prevail. It is this level-headed-ness that keeps guns from becoming a problem on the same scale as the U.S., and this level-headed-ness demands that we no longer persecute Ian Thomson and the Montagues as we flail about trying to prevent the next Marc Lepine.

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On Opposite Day, we do our best to argue in service of a position that, under normal circumstances, we argue against. Coke people might sing the praises of Pepsi, Cat people might talk about why Dogs make for superior pets, Political Types might put forward the position that is usually held by their opponents. After all, *ANYONE* can beat up a strawman. 

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4 thoughts on “One gun law added on

  1. How popular are these gun laws with Canadians though? My Canadian friends are largely NDP types and seem to support very strong gun laws including the ones you go against here.

    Posts like this always underly the tension in democratic government between popularity and good policy/liberty.

    For the sake of hypothetical, suppose you are right and these policies and laws are as horrible as you describe but are also extremely popular with your fellow Canadians. Which should trump in a majoritarian-democracy: good policy or something that is the popular will? When does the popular will of a majority have a right to trump against what might be a better policy?

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    • First, to be clear, “Suppose you are right” is not the correct formulation, as this is an opposite day post, I don’t actually hold this position. Now, to your questions:

      There’s a big split on gun laws, and a lot of it is the red state vs. blue state (to use an American phrasing) sort of thing, as well as an urban vs rural divide. I would say that gun control is generally pretty popular, with most people disagreeing at the margins of the issue, rather than the core.

      That being said, there appears to be a growing movement of gun-right activists (essentially calling for our own second amendment, even using its wording) who are trying to change things.

      To your last question, personally, I think elected officials have to consider both the will of their constituents as well as what is good for the nation/province/citizens/whatever. Part of the reason, I would argue, that we elect these representatives is to have people who can focus completely on policy issues, and we need to trust them–to a certain extent–to use their best judgement even if it means making unpopular decisions.

      But it really is a balancing act.

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  2. Actually, those laws seem very similar to US gun laws. There are lots of ‘gotcha’ laws that were sold with the intent to trip up criminals & gangsters, but that are more often than not applied harshly to people who are, for all intents & purposes, harmless.

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