Canadian column on failure of their gun control
From the National Post (subscription only) comes an editorial that points out that as gun density declines, crime rates increase.
COMMENTARY: Gun control's unlikely new enemy
National Post (Canada)
February 13, 2006
Byline: Lorne Gunter
Two weeks ago, the very anti-gun, pro-gun-registry Toronto Star probably did more than any other media outlet to undermine the recent call by the Ontario provincial government for a ban on all handguns in the province.
On Jan. 28, the Star ran a map of southern Ontario and cottage country showing the number of legal firearms per district.
Using statistics obtained from the federal firearms registry, the paper showed its readers that in the areas around the town of Orillia, there have been up to 47 firearms licences issued for every 100 households -- the highest rate in the province. Large numbers of licences also have been granted around Durham and Orangeville, Cambridge and Peterborough.
Indeed, that swath of Ontario from Lake Huron in the west to Georgian Bay in the north, around Lake Simcoe through Hastings to Prince Edward County, is veritably bristling with guns.
Niagara County, too, and Simcoe, Oxford and Wellington -- guns everywhere.
Most districts nearer Toronto have between four and 12 registered gun owners per 100 homes. Much of the 905 area has between two and six.
But right down in the centre of Toronto, standing out like a strobe light, were several neighbourhoods with two or fewer firearms licences per 100 households. From Pearson International Airport to the Don Valley Parkway, and between the 407 and the Lake, Ontario is nearly gun-free, according to the Star.
But of course, that is exactly where most gun crimes take place. The conclusion to be drawn from the Star's graphic is obvious: The most sensational shootings and highest number of gun murders in Ontario occur within the area that already has by far the lowest levels of legal firearm ownership.
With this one map, the Star unwittingly proved correct those who argue that a ban on all legal handguns will do nothing to reduce gun crime in Toronto. It also debunked all those, such as the Ontario government, the Liberal Party of Canada and the Star itself, who have made a ban the lynchpin of their crime-reduction strategies.
The simple, inescapable truth is that most firearms crimes being committed in Ontario are not being committed with legal guns, so no ban on legal guns -- whether handguns or shotguns and rifles -- is going to have any impact on crime rates.
Most gun crimes are not being committed by gun owners licensed under Ottawa's registry scheme. So no campaign to make licensed owners surrender their firearms in a mass confiscation is going to have any impact either.
Indeed, from a statistical point of view, a ban on handguns would be the least likely ban to have any appreciable effect.
Canada's law-abiding gun owners, collectors, hunters and sport shooters own approximately nine "long guns" -- hunting rifles or shotguns -- for every one handgun. In Ontario, the federal registry knows of 1,839,155 long guns, but just 215,372 handguns, and most of both types of these legal guns are not in Toronto.
If fewer than two in 100 Toronto households contain registered guns, then likely fewer than two in 1,000 contain registered handguns. The Ontario government could send the police to every home in T.O. to collect every pistol and revolver identified by Ottawa's databanks and still seize only a tiny number of handguns.
And those wouldn't be the handguns being used on the streets anyway.
After the shooting of more than a dozen pupils at Scotland's Dunblane Primary School in March, 1996, the British government banned private ownership of all handguns.
The judge who investigated the causes of the massacre recommended against such a ban, but because mass murderer Thomas Hamilton had used several pistols in the commission of his crime, the government in London bulled ahead anyway. It wanted to send a message that it was doing something.
In the decade before the ban, gun violence in Britain rose 12%. In the decade since, it has risen 64%.
Handguns are technically banned from New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago, too. But not until those cities ramped up police patrols and began getting tough on criminals did any of them experience drops in gun crime.
Banning legal handguns is nothing more than a victory for symbolism over substance, for activity over achievement.