In the wake of Sunday night’s mass shooting on Toronto’s popular Danforth St., politicians from the mayor to the local councillor are turning predictably to gun control rhetoric in place of any firm plan to deal with the problem. It’s what politicians do when they don’t have an answer – they ramble on about what they can do, even when it’s been proven not to work.
Twelve people were shot by a lone gunman on Danforth St. Two innocent people were killed, including a young girl, in addition to the gunman. Stronger gun control wouldn’t have saved any of them.
Addressing City Council Monday morning, Toronto mayor John Tory questioned why anyone in the city “needs a gun.” NDP councillors are reverting to form and questioning why there are guns in the city.
There are two types of guns in Toronto: legal firearms and crime guns. Legal firearms are owned by law-abiding firearms owners and pose no threat to anyone. Crime guns exist in the city because there are criminals in the city.
More laws restricting gun-ownership are not the answer. Because, people who obey gun-control laws are not the problem. Criminals are.
Two million adults are licensed to purchase and possess firearms in Canada.
Want to join them? It’s not easy and it’s not quick.
To own a gun legally in Canada, you must have a Possession and Acquisition License or PAL.
To qualify for a PAL, you must take a rigorous 8-hour hands-on training course and pass both written and practical tests that ensure you understand the laws about gun ownership in Canada and safe handling, storage and transportation practices for an unrestricted firearm such as a hunting or target-shooting rifle or basic shotgun.
If you want to own a restricted firearm such as a handgun, you must take a second 8-hour course and pass additional written and practical tests for those types of firearms, for which there are different regulations.
Your current and/or former “conjugal partner” must also sign off on your application – you can’t own a gun without your spouse (or ex-partner) agreeing to it. You must disclose if you’ve had any mental illness or ever been fired from your job. The police will confirm all of this.
You must then pass a rigorous police background check before a license will be issued. And, you must continue to avoid run-ins with the law. Once licensed, you will be required to pass a criminal background check every day you hold a PAL. That’s right: every day. Holding a gun license in Canada is de facto proof you’re not a criminal.
Now that you’re licensed, want to legally buy a handgun in Canada?
All handguns in Canada are restricted firearms, meaning they are all registered to their owners – and always have been.
First, you must find a gun shop – which is very hard to do in Toronto. You must present your PAL just to handle (often even just to see) the handguns available for sale. When you’ve chosen the one you want, you pay for it and leave it at the store. The store then sends an application to the RCMP, asking to transfer ownership of the gun from them to you. That may take up to three weeks. If the RCMP approves the transfer, you are notified to pick up the gun from the shop.
When you pick up the handgun, and any time you transport the gun outside your home, it must be unloaded and separate from ammunition. It must have a trigger lock or cable lock that renders it inoperable. It must be inside a locked container. And, it must be out of reach and hidden from view in your vehicle.
When you get home, you must secure the gun in an approved, locked container behind a locked door. Most legal firearms in Canada are protected behind four or five (or more) different locks, from front door lock to trigger lock.
Want to shoot your handgun?
You’ll need ammunition. You must have a PAL in order to purchase bullets – meaning you’ve undergone a criminal background check that day.
You can only shoot handguns at registered/approved ranges and shooting clubs, so you have to find one and join it. Then, you can transport your gun to and from the range, locked as indicated above, on the most direct and practical route.
You can’t just drive around with a gun in your car – you must be going to or coming from a range, store or repair shop and your home. At no time, can you legally carry a loaded handgun on your person outside the range or your home. Not one law-abiding Canadian gun owner carries a gun in her pocket or handbag on the street.
Almost no Canadians are allowed to carry concealed firearms unless they are police or military. A small group of uniformed security guards, such as those guarding shipments of cash, are allowed to carry handguns in holsters for self-protection.
People who obey gun laws aren’t going to break the “no murder” law
Millions of Canadians who legally own and use firearms for hunting or sport-shooting follow all of these laws every day. Making it harder for them to enjoy their sport isn’t going to make anyone safer.
After all, if you’re going to use a gun to commit murder – you are unlikely to obey the laws about gun licensing. That’s why changing Canada’s gun laws has never prevented a murder.
Canada’s proposed new gun control law – Bill C-71 requires lawful gun owners to apply for a paper permit from police to transport their gun from home to a repair shop. I find it unlikely this new regulation will save any lives. How many murderers, terrorists and gang bangers will follow this law? And, if they did… how would it prevent a crime?
If you’re a criminal, it’s easier
Of course, if you’re a criminal, it’s far easier to get a gun. You join a gang and get one from your boss. Or, you buy one on the street from another criminal. Most of these guns have been smuggled across the border from the USA. According to what justice statistics are available, very few legally-owned and lawfully-stored firearms are stolen and used in crimes. It’s too easy to smuggle cheaper, deadlier guns in from the USA.
What can government do to reduce gun crime?
- Go to war with gangs. The vast majority of gun violence in Canada is gang-related. Police know who the gangs are. They know who belongs to the gangs. They know where they live and where they operate. It is a criminal offence in Canada to belong to a criminal organization – punishable by five years in prison. Arrest gang members everywhere.
- Invest in prosecution. Provincial and federal governments need to get serious about gangs – dedicate resources to criminal intelligence targeting gangs, to anti-gang enforcement task forces. Hire additional prosecutors and judges specifically for gang offences.
- Evict gangsters. Toronto’s social housing complexes are riddled with gangs. People there live in fear. The Toronto Community Housing Corporation must work fearlessly with the City of Toronto, the police and the government of Ontario to evict known gang members and their associates from social housing. Gangs must not find safe harbour there. If laws need to change, then change those laws – it would make a difference that changing gun laws would not.
- Strengthen our Borders. The federal government needs to pour more resources into border security. Most guns used in crimes come from the USA. Stop them there. Better intelligence, better surveillance, better detection is required. Target anyone associated with a gang for detailed inspection at the border. Invest in technology that can scan vehicles for guns.