Bad People Kill People…No Matter Where They Live

16 Jan

As long as we continue to be willfully ignorant of the impact of culture, mental health issues and the demonstrable futility of harsher gun regulations, the gun violence issue cannot be addressed, much less solved.

Guns are big news today. Obama announced 23 largely meaningless executive “statements” that he claims to will address gun violence.  Mass shootings have grabbed headlines, incited the nanny-state nuts and provided talk show fodder.  The result is emotional and largely irrational anti-gun sentiment that drives the “gun” debate to new lows.

Canadians have been conditioned to believe that there are two things that set us, as a society, above our Americans neighbors.  The first is our healthcare system. Despite the outrageous cost, long wait times and poor patient outcomes, the fact that it is universally substandard and available to all, we somehow see it as superior to the US system.

The second is our supposed “aversion” to guns, and the notion that Canadians are a “less violent” people than Americans. The US has a violent crime rate of 466/100,000 of population, Canada’s is about 1400/100,000. In the UK, where guns are banned, there are nearly 2000 violent crimes for each 100,000 population.

Just as there is little evidence that Canada’s healthcare system provides better or cheaper care than the pre-Obamacare US system, there is no evidence that Canada is less violent, or significantly less firearms oriented. While the US leads the world in total reported crime, Canada comes in at number eight, with 1/10 the population.

The National Firearms Association in Canada estimates there are as many as 18 million firearms in Canada.  That is more than one firearm for every two Canadians, nearly 50%.  42% of US citizens own firearms, according to Gallup.

Comparing homicide statistics in both countries,  (FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, StatsCan, Canadian Ministry of Justice) the US clearly has a much higher homicide rate at about 4.4/100,000 of population, while Canada’s (2010) is about 1.62/100,000.  The US statistics are skewed significantly because the homicide rate in the Black population is nearly ten times that of the non-Black population – when the Black on Black homicide rate is taken out, the US homicide rate is 1.3/100,000.  Canada does not have a similar large segment of the population that experiences a significant difference in homicide rates. Any objective comparison of the two sets of data must take into account those cultural differences. 

Not all homicide in either country was the result of firearms, and the numbers fluctuate. In Canada in 2011, there were 598 homicides, 158 by shooting and 440 by others including 204 by stabbing.  In the US (2011) there were 12,644 homicides, 6220 by handguns, 5668 by “other” including knives and blunt instruments, hands and feet.  It is factually incorrect to assume guns are the main driver of homicide.

When broken down by region, in both countries most of shootings takes place in the most populated centres.  Toronto is Canada’s gun crime capital, followed by Montreal and Vancouver.  In the US the highest gun crime takes place in New York City, Washington DC, Chicago and Los Angeles. The Toronto and US examples share the presence of large Black communities and are governed by strict gun laws, including outright handgun bans in Chicago and gun, magazine and bullet bans in Washington DC.

Chicago racked up 504 gun murders in 2012, Washington DC had 242.  The high profile shootings in the Jamaican community in Toronto in 2012 took place under Canadian gun laws that prohibit the use and transport of handguns without documentation.

In Canada, legal handgun owners cannot transport weapons unless to a registered gun club to which they belong, or a gunsmith.  Pointing a gun at someone, storing a loaded weapon, or storing ammunition “with” a firearm is illegal, punishable by up to 5 years in jail. All firearms must be deactivated and/or locked during transport.

Gun laws in Connecticut, where the recent school shootings took place are the fifth toughest in the US, in many respects similar to Canadian law. 

Experience demonstrates “tougher” gun laws don’t stop high profile or endemic gun crime.

As long as we continue to be willfully ignorant of the impact of culture, mental health issues and the demonstrable futility of harsher gun regulations, the gun violence issue cannot be addressed, much less solved.

Continuing to allow immigration from countries like Jamaica and Somalia, where murder rates are over 50/100,000 guarantees that Canada will import more gun murder.  The continued “mainstreaming” of the mentally ill, for fear of stigmatizing the insane, some notion of “human rights” or as a result of budget constraints will result, from time to time, in violent and deadly tragedies at the hands of the insane. Imposing further restriction on legal, stable gun owners will encourage the illegal firearms trade.

Bans and “zero-tolerance” policies never produce the desired result.  We have many examples, from prohibition, to the “war on drugs” to impaired driving laws. Under bans, law abiding citizens become law breakers, while the criminals continue to commit crime and mentally disturbed individuals when left untreated or supervised, do harm to themselves and others.  It doesn’t matter what side of the border you are on.







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