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Gun control is a national issue, not one for municipalities

The gun problem in Canada isn’t anything like the mess south of the border. We have fairly extensive gun-control laws, and only a few detractors, largely for partisan or self-serving (i.e. lobbying) purposes. The number of gun-related deaths pales in comparison.

The federal Liberals this week rolled out plans that will allow municipalities to ban handguns. They’ll be able to develop their own bylaws to restrict the ownership, storage and transportation of such weapons. Severe penalties, including imprisonment, may be imposed on those who fail to follow municipal rules.

Notably, the backlash against the move isn’t the imposition of controls, rather the patchwork nature of new rules that may ensue. Gun control advocates argue that nationwide regulations are required, as local rules are much easier to circumvent.

We need only look to the U.S. for confirmation. Cities such as Chicago and Washington have strict controls, but the ease of access in areas just outside the city limits render the laws essentially worthless.

Of course, the U.S. makes obtaining guns very easy by comparison. That includes handguns, which are strictly controlled in Canada, and weapons that are banned entirely here.

Mass shootings are almost daily occurrences in the U.S. The most egregious bring calls for gun control measures. In Canada, such shootings are rare, but also generate support for tighter controls.

The situations are much different in the two countries, however. There, advocates have difficulty making headway on something as simple as background checks, let alone something along the lines of banning assault rifles, as we see here.

Gun-control advocates on this side of the border have an easier time promoting restrictions to what are much, much tighter regulations in this country every time there is a notable shooting.

Canada has tighter controls, part of the reason the number of firearms in the country is 35 per 100 residents, which seems high but pales in comparison where the corresponding figure is 121 weapons – more than one per person.

There are some 390 million guns owned by civilians in the U.S., and about 40 per cent of Americans own a gun or live in a household with one. Not coincidentally, the U.S. has the highest rate of murder or manslaughter by firearm in the developed world – that translated to 11,000 deaths in 2017 alone.

While Canada and the U.S. have comparable rates of homicides without guns (1.79 per 100,000 versus 1.35), the American firearm homicide rate is five times Canada’s (3.8 versus. 0.69 per 100.000); the U.S. handgun homicide rate is seven times Canada’s (2.83 versus 0.39 per 100,000).

The U.S. also has 5.8 times the rates per 100,000 of robberies committed with firearms even though rates of robberies without guns are comparable.

Those kind of statistics depict a major difference between our neighbouring cultures.

We also react differently when mass shootings occur. Rarely will you hear in Canada that the solution to gun violence is to make more guns available. The good-guys-with-guns arguments are commonplace in the U.S., where Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – issues abound. In Canada, the notion seems ridiculous: having more guns at hand increases the risk. It would be far more likely for someone to see red, snap and use a readily available gun than it would be for someone to be faced with a murderer on a shooting spree.

Most Canadians support greater gun controls – surveys typically put the number in the range of three out of four people polled – so the Trudeau government’s plan to allow for the banning of handguns is likely fine with many of us, particularly in urban areas. But municipalities might be well-advised to say “thanks, but no thanks,” calling instead for national regulations.

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