Why Canada’s gun ban won’t stop shootings

Paz Gómez,
Research associate,
Frontier Centre for Public Policy,
Courtesy of Troy Media.

A prohibition is the easiest way out of a policy problem.

In enacting one to target gun violence, the federal government has admitted failure to find a solution that preserves both rights and lives.

The deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history took place in Nova Scotia on April 19. The shooter didn’t have a gun licence; he obtained the arms illegally.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has banned 1,500 models of what he describes as assault-style weapons, unfairly targeting lawful citizens and hurting gun businesses.

The prohibitions include two of the guns used by the Nova Scotia shooter and other weapons involved in mass shootings in the United States. Always going the extra mile, the federal government has extended the ban to countless other firearms with a 20-mm bore or greater and with projectile-discharging energy of more than 10,000 joules.

By announcing a two-year amnesty for owners of the banned guns and a buyback program, Trudeau believed he had taken into account the concerns of those affected. The reality is the policy will affect not just gun owners, but also local stores and entire industries.

The shooting-sports industry adds $8.9 billion to the national economy, according to a recent study conducted by the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association. The report also reported hunting and sports shooting account for 6,100 full-time jobs in British Columbia alone.

In total, the hunting, fishing, trapping and shooting-sports industries supports 107,000 jobs and generates $6.4 billion in labour income during 2018.

Tighter gun control has been a hot-button issue since 2018, in the wake of a mass shooting in downtown Toronto. Back then, the federal government was exploring a full ban on handguns and assault weapons, but public opinion wasn’t on side.

To gain time and lobby for support, the government launched a lengthy consultation process. In total, 77 stakeholders participated in these sessions, including provincial governments, municipalities, law-enforcement agencies, non-profits, retailers, researchers and the sooting-sports community.

Instead, the focus should lie on enforcing existing laws, increasing penalties on arms-trafficking and gun-related crimes and tailoring local policies to target gangs, argued stakeholders.

All stakeholders agreed; however, on the need to address the underlying causes of firearm violence, such as the lack of education, job opportunities and adequate mental-health care.

Adam Palmer, director of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, told Chatelaine magazine that most weapons used in violent crimes are illegal. He said further bans would boost the black market and “straw purchasing,” a work-around that involves reselling legally purchased guns to those without a licence.

Individuals and businesses report around 3,000 firearm thefts a year in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, most incidents occur during break-ins, while others result from unsafe storage. Most of these weapons remain in the hands of criminals.

Every law, no matter how well designed, has loopholes. This is especially true for gun control. Criminals don’t hesitate to commit illegal acts, such as bootlegging, to get firearms.

No reduction in gun-related crimes looms on the horizon. Addressing the more complex problems of narcotics, smuggling, and terrorism will yield more effective and durable results.

As many times before, the cure fails to address the root causes and just compounds the disease with new, intractable problems.

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