Taking aim at rampant gun ownership

There is no good case for increased firearm ownership in Alberta or the rest of Canada; the sooner we clamp down, the better for society

gunRED DEER, Alta. June 14, 2017/ Troy Media/ – Guns don’t kill people – in a peaceful society, idiots, thugs, the demented, the horribly afflicted, the dangerously confused and fanatics pull the triggers.

But any society that allows miscreants, misfits and the disturbed easy access to guns must carry a significant portion of the blame.

And no society that values its citizens above some twisted and archaic sense of liberty would allow assault weapons to be easily obtainable. Allowing people to have tools that can rob others of their lives is hardly a philosophy of freedom. It is simply fatally flawed logic.

Yes, the most desperate and the most determined will find ways to kill people.

And yes, even in the most careful of nations, where guns are strictly controlled, weapons are still obtained and used to kill people. Desperate people are resourceful.

But no nation is as arrogantly insistent that its path is correct in the face of such wanton violence as the United States.

The human loss just keeps growing, linked inextricably to a blind devotion to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: the right to bear arms. The mass shooting in Orlando is the most recent and the most overwhelming in terms of numbers. But every American shooting death is an indictment of a tragically twisted system.

So when certain Albertans try to assert that we are or should aspire to be little America, we should sound the alarm.

We are not and can never allow ourselves to be a society where anyone can go into a nightclub, a school, a movie theatre or to a picnic and kill with voracious intent.

Nor should we be a society where organizations like FreeAlberta.com (“For an Independent Alberta”) espouse dangerous nonsense and gain any traction. Their presence should make us all wary. “Firearm regulation is taking away Albertans’ freedoms,” the group’s website says. “Firearm ownership is a right that derives from the right to property and the right to self-defense. Gun control does not reduce crime, and it hurts Alberta culture.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. A civil society must count on its police and its rule of order to protect property, reduce crime and defend its citizens. The kind of anarchy this group proposes takes us further from freedom, not closer.

We need to be similarly alarmed when an Airdrie mother posts a photo of her two-and-a-half-year-old holding a gun, bragging about how she and his father taught him to shoot. “He did great,” the mother boasts on Facebook. The perspective that guns should be part of normal life at any age simply courts disaster.

Last year, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) seized 126 firearms, including 21 handguns, 81 long rifles and 24 shotguns. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg. And Alberta police say they encounter guns in the hands of the wrong people more frequently.

Of course, when it comes to gun ownership, we pale when compared to the U.S., where there are as many as 97 firearms per 100 people. In Canada, there are roughly 25 firearms per 100 people, and assault weapons are not easily obtained.

But Albertans still own 261,000 firearms, according to RCMP statistics compiled in 2014. Only B.C., Ontario and Quebec – all with much higher populations – have more guns. And when it comes to restricted or prohibited firearms that are registered, only Ontario (335,000) surpasses Alberta (175,000).

Of course, in comparison to our closest neighbour, firearm deaths in Canada are not extraordinarily high. We average 1.97 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people. That’s .38 homicides, 1.52 suicides, .05 unintentional deaths and .02 undetermined. The United States averages 10.54 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people; 3.43 homicides, 6.69 suicides, .18 unintentional and .08 undetermined.

But we can do better. Australia has .93 gun-related homicides per 100,000 people and the United Kingdom’s rate is .23.

The Jean Chretien government’s ill-fated long-gun registry was costly and unwieldy, so the Conservative government dismantled it. But the intent, to closely monitor and managed gun ownership, was prudent and the Conservatives had no good alternative.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals say they will introduce measures to limit the sale and transport of handguns and assault weapons, and ramp up border screening. They will not, however, reintroduce the long-gun registry.

Ultimately, we need to get guns out of the hands of people who are intent on putting themselves before a peaceful society. We can’t give them the chance to pull the trigger.

Troy Media columnist John Stewart is a born and bred Albertan who doesn’t drill for oil, ranch or drive a pickup truck – although all of those things have played a role in his past. John is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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