Gun laws in Canada

Banff-Hero-AUR0018949-1735x1153Today my family is on the way to Banff, Alberta in Canada. It is a long anticipated trip with our entire family. We are caravaning with 2 cars and 9 people for the trip. As with our other travels, I like to blog about the gun laws where we are going to compare them to what American gun laws looks like.

First of all, who needs a gun in this beautiful place? I would hope we don’t run into a Grizzly Bear. But actually bear spray seems to be the “weapon” of choice when it comes to a very rare encounter with a Grizzly.

But I digress. Back to Canadien gun laws.

I always remember that the film producer Michael Moore made a trip to Canada in his award winning film, Bowling for Columbine. The laws are starkly different than ours. Even though Canadiens own a lot of guns, gun deaths and injuries are few. Let’s take a look:

According to a StatsCan report from 2012 – the most recent year available – the U.S. suffered a total of 8,813 murders involving the use of firearms that year. Canada, in the same year, recorded just 172 firearms-related homicides.

“When looking at firearm-related homicide rates in comparable countries, Canada’s rate is about seven times lower than that of the United States (3.5 per 100,000 population), although it is higher than several other peer countries. While Canada’s firearm-related homicide rate is similar to those in Ireland and Switzerland, it is significantly higher than the rates in Japan (0.01 per 100,000 population) and the United Kingdom (0.06 per 100,000 population),” states StatsCan’s findings, which do not include Quebec figures.

Presently, Canadian law classifies firearms into three categories: prohibited, restricted, and non-restricted. Prohibited firearms include military-grade assault weapons such as AK-47s and sawn-off rifles or shotguns. Handguns are generally classified as restricted weapons, while rifles and shotguns are usually non-restricted. The AR-15 rifles used by the San Bernardino suspects is classified as restricted.

That explains a lot. Gun laws work. And more:

Anyone wishing to buy a gun in Canada and/or ammunition must have a valid licence under the Firearms Act. To obtain a firearms licence, all applicants must undergo a screening process, which includes a safety course, criminal history and background checks, provision of personal references, and a mandatory waiting period.

So then, what about gun deaths and injuries:

Overall, Americans are almost 70 per cent more likely to die at the end of a gun — shot by someone else, by themselves, by accident — than Canadians are to die in a car accident.

Thirty-five per cent more likely to be shot to death than Canadians are to die of a fall.

American firearm death rates are almost three times higher than Canadian death rates of ovarian cancer and Parkinson’s; 42 per cent higher than Canadian prostate cancer deaths; 10 per cent higher than pneumonia.

Stunning and proof positive that strong gun laws work without totally restricting guns themselves. And that is the ludicrous myth presented to us by the corporate gun lobby. If we pass one law, all guns will be confiscated. On its’ face, it doesn’t even make sense. It won’t happen and it hasn’t happened in Canada or other countries where people actually have to go through a stringent process to purchase a gun. In America, we go through that process to buy a car, to adopt a pet, to buy Sudafed, and many other things in our daily lives.

Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill people. The fact that we don’t regulate these lethal weapons better and the people who are purchasing them is an American tragedy. We are unique in many ways in our country. Our President wants us be exceptional. We are, unfortunately. More people die from gun deaths and injuries every day than in any other industrialized country not at war.

What we want is just common sense based on the evidence. The evidence is in. The suicide rate is going up.:

Montana experienced about 29 suicides for every 100,000 people — the highest in the nation — compared with about seven people out of every 100,000 in the District of Columbia — the lowest. As a whole, the nation saw 15 people dying by suicide for every 100,000 in 2016.
“The most common method was firearm, followed by hanging or suffocation, followed by poisoning,” Schuchat said. “Opioids were present in 31% of individuals who died by poisoning.” She added that intentionality is difficult to determine in cases in which a person dies by overdose.

We will be traveling through North Dakota and Montana on our way there. There are lots of guns available to residents of those states and loose gun laws. So no surprises that the suicide rate is high in Montana.

The overall number of people killed by guns is going up. But our Congress stands still and does nothing. Some of our state legislatures have managed to pass stronger gun laws. Not in Minnesota. Generally speaking states with strong gun laws have fewer gun deaths.

Any questions?

What are we doing about this?

So why is this happening? We know the answer. Limp, scared lapdog politicians afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. The NRA makes up about 1.8% of Americans. Most gun owners want stronger gun laws. I have spoken with many.

The best thing that has happened after a national tragedy in Parkland, Florida is that the kids are speaking up. They are making a difference. At the recent Minnesota DFL convention, held on Wear Orange week-end, gun violence became one of the most important issues there. Finally, the issue is on the radar screen and has the attention of the Democrats at least. If the Republicans avoid it, they may be sorry.

We have a long ways to go but we are moving. And we are not afraid to be bold. The time is long passed to address our public health epidemic of gun violence.

While I am in Canada, I will be unlikely to see gun toting people where I will be with my family. I know that I will at the least be safe from gun violence. Now let’s hope we are safe from other things like auto accidents, falls on the trails, etc. I look forward to getting away from the negativity and chaos of American politics.

I also know that the G-7 summit will be in Canada and that our President will be in the same country as me again.  I doubt that he will give one thought to gun violence and how Canada has managed to be mostly safe from mass shootings and every day shootings. But he intends to leave the summit early before other things of grave importance to the U.S. and the world will be discussed:

By pulling out early, Trump will skip sessions focused on climate change, the oceans and clean energy. He will also miss the traditional group-photo opportunity among fellow heads of state. The president may also miss the opportunity to host a summit-ending news conference, something world leaders traditionally do. The leader of the host nation, in this case Trudeau, also takes questions and gives closing remarks. Trump chose not to hold a news conference last year, becoming the only G-7 leader not to do so before leaving Italy, according to The Hill. He opted instead for a speech at a nearby naval air station.

Avoiding tough issues is no way to solve them. The world is crying out for dealing with important issues facing us all.

While I am gone, there will be memorials to the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting 2 years ago on June 12th. There will be one in my home town which I will miss. People want to take action and do something. And they will come and remember and sign up to get active to do something. We will make sure they do.

I intend to write more about the Pulse shooting later.

Until then we will be enjoying the beauty of Banff.

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