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KNOX – The differences between Canada and U.S. when it comes to guns

(Image:Brett Hondow-Pixabay.com)

THE EDMONTON terror attack didn’t even get a full day before our attention was seized by the horror in Las Vegas.

The difference? The man who injured five Albertans on was armed with a car and a knife. The Las Vegas killer is believed to have had fully automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines packed with so much ammunition that it sounded like a war.

That’s it. That’s the difference. Their attacker had easy access to that kind of firepower. Ours didn’t.

As much as Canadians might like to think ourselves superior to Americans, we are all just people. Canadians do not have some maple-tinged gene that makes us inherently less violent, less disturbed.

But nor do we have the mass shootings they do: The online Gun Violence Archive says the Las Vegas slaughter was the United States’ 273rd such crime — defined as an attack in which four or more people are shot — in the first 274 days of 2017. In Canada, that kind of shooting is almost unheard of; when a lone gunman killed six people at a Quebec City mosque in January, it was an aberration.

Why the difference? Call it a combination of regulation and culture.

Simply put, Americans have guns — even ones made for no other purpose than to mow down other people — because they feel they need them. Their Second Amendment has made firearms readily available to good guys and bad. People armour up because they’re afraid of being outgunned by the bogeyman.

As the number of guns increases (by some estimates, the number of firearms is greater than the population of the U.S.), more people feel naked without them. Note that across the strait from us in Port Angeles, the Peninsula Daily News reported in 2015 that one in nine Clallam County residents had slapped down $52.50 US for a concealed-pistol permit.

Canadians, by contrast, have never felt that need — a lack of desire that goes hand in hand with restricted availability. We don’t see the kind of threat that leads to an arms race. When we buy firearms, they tend to be for hunting or target shooting, not protection.

Put that down to a history of gun control that goes back to the 1890s, and to regulations that were tightened considerably after Marc Lépine killed 14 women and wounded 14 others at Montreal’s l’École Polytechnique in 1989. The Firearms Act, implemented in 1998, included rules around the training and screening of gun owners, registration and the storage of firearms and ammunition.

Firearms offences in Canada fell steeply after that (as did violent crime in general, it should be noted). Gun homicides plunged from 271 in 1991 to 158 in 2011, a year in which, by comparison, the FBI says 8,600 Americans were murdered with firearms, mostly handguns.

We do own more guns than you might think. Two million Canadians, including 279,000 British Columbians, have licences. Many own unrestricted long guns such as hunting rifles and shotguns, but as of 2016, British Columbians had also registered 156,782 restricted weapons. The latter category includes all handguns and any rifles based on the M-16 military model. (Many would be surprised to know that the semi-automatic AR-15, the military-style rifle used in the Orlando, San Bernardino and Sandy Hook mass murders, among others, is legal here, although it can only be used for target shooting, not hunting, and is supposed to only hold a five-round magazine.)

British Columbians also own 27,153 prohibited firearms — the kind that would only be used as weapons, not tools. They include automatic and sawed-off long guns, and short-barrelled, small-calibre handguns. Ownership is grandfathered, restricted to those who owned the firearm (or one like it) before it was banned, and who have held a firearms permit continuously since 1998.

One other difference in Canada: Our licensing system is national, meaning if you get a gun permit in, say, the Maritimes, then do something that alarms police in B.C., a red flag goes up. More than 420,000 Canadians are banned from owning firearms.

The loopholes are larger in the U.S., where information doesn’t flow as readily from state to state.

That’s just part of it, of course. A well-heeled and wild-eyed firearms lobby makes certain that the madness continues in the U.S., ensuring that even if Americans aren’t more violent or disturbed than Canadians by nature, their gun culture remains insane.

© Copyright Times Colonist

Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloops lad who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.

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10 Comments on KNOX – The differences between Canada and U.S. when it comes to guns

  1. I agree with the thinking that Americans need their guns .They hate each other so much that they expect that they could die in a hail of bullets at any time.They continually give tacit permission to the “nut jobs” to go out and kill anyone at anytime to whatever whatever limit technology allows.And their laws will allow it.
    I predict that it will get a lot worse before The gov’t grows the requesit cajonies to stop the onslaught against festival goers.The potential for armed gangs roving their streets looking for running gun battles looms like armageddon.
    How much worse will these incidents get???When the NRA demanding and gets silencers on the automatics and bump stock semi’s ??
    Just consider if the nut job of Las Vegas had had silencers on his bump stock semis???It could have been 1000 dead and 5000 injured.
    Domestic terrorism hasn’t got it’s hands on large morters or RPg’s yet .Does anyone think that this guy ( I won’t use his name because he’d go down as an American legend) (oops ,to late) would have restrained himself if he only had a few RPGs.???instead of AR15’s.
    Is it only a matter of time??????
    This amounts to a reign of terror and who wouldn’t want a gun under those circumstances????????????????????????????????????????

  2. Your article is more propaganda than facts and is garbled.

  3. chrossphyre // October 9, 2017 at 9:57 AM // Reply

    As a firearms owner and competitive target shooter, I tend to agree with the thrust of this article, if not some of the details. The real difference between US and Canadian firearms culture comes down to the background check. In Canada it is extensive and invasive, particularly for the restricted level license. Certainly, I would not want someone unhinged shooting next to me at the range, so, with a few strident exceptions, the firearms community is generally okay with this within reason. The things we are not okay with is the inept behaviour shown by the RCMP firearms lab regarding classifications of firearms (which make no sense at all) and the confusing prohibition on magazine capacity (is it 5, 10, 15? Why is one 25 round rimfire magazine perfectly legal when another of the same calibre, type and capacity is not?) and other idiocy within our firearms laws (Why is a barrel length of 4.25 inches okay and a 4 inch barrel is not – generally speaking the shorter the barrel the less accurate the gun, why can you shoot 9mm and more powerful pistol ammunition but not .25 ACP and .32 when you can still shoot .22 rimfire? Why is a rifle restricted because it is modular and black?). We are also not excited to see further restrictions on our privilege with legislation that does absolutely nothing to further public safety but is only introduced to pacify an ignorant public by lazy politicians who consistently fail to address the root causes of gun violence in Canada and continue to user the law abiding gun owner as their personal whipping boy. That really gets our goat. Things like registrations, Authorizations to Transport, UN gun marking, and yes even local “gun amnesties”, where the police are able to show off a table full of grandpa’s dusty shotguns, a few WW2 era memorables, a couple of rusty chunks of iron that are no longer functioning, and the odd pellet gun. Way to fight crime, guys! So yes, our laws work. There is certainly no need for more of them and certainly some need for careful reformulation – but no with the current Liberal appointed Canadian Firearms Advisory Committee – most of whom wouldn’t know the difference between a derringer and a punt gun if one of them came up and kissed them right on the lips.

  4. Stephane Barrette // October 9, 2017 at 8:33 AM // Reply

    This article is so full of misinformation. I cannot beleive that someone can write an article about something he has no idea about. No serious rechearch was made obviously.

  5. Juanita Sotkowy // October 9, 2017 at 8:23 AM // Reply

    Firstly, prohibs are not guns that are weapons. Many of the prohib firearms were, in fact, target guns, and many, many more are heritage pieces. Like most everyone not involved in shooting sports, the people who came up with the classifications did so based on emotions and looks, not functionality. This was just another way to take firearms out of the hands of law abiding citizens. As the populations ages, we will lose more and more heritage pieces… pieces that should be able to be passed down to family or other collectors, all because someone was afraid of how they look. Aside from that, the people in power use any event, no matter where it happened, to push their own agenda on the unsuspecting people. Canada has a VERY stringent set of gun laws, already in place. Most of these gun laws have absolutely zero effect on the overall crime stats, they only further restrict the law abiding gun owner. All bans do is take guns out of the hands of the law abiding and put them in the hands of the criminal minded. Lets take a second or two to actually get educated on guns and on shooting so as to not have a knee jerk reaction to these things.

  6. The American gun culture is based on mistrust of the government, not defense against a bogeyman as you stated. Google tyrannical government, and educate yourself. Japan, Korea, China, Russia, Croatia, currently in Myanmar, Germany, France (king Louis), Spain in the 30s and again right now, the British Empire at certain points in history, currently in Venezuela…all of these governments committed atrocities against their own citizens. Now, throw in almost every country in the middle east and African continent; and governments have a long history of being untrustworthy.

  7. Its not that canadian dont feel the need to use firearms for self defence. Its that our tyrannical government would charge anybody who defended their life resulting in bodily hram of the attacker, would then be charged with a violent criminal offence for defending their own wellbeing.

    The RCMP hold a monopoly on legal violence and dont’t like their customers(you) undercutting them.

  8. allan kenny // October 8, 2017 at 5:03 PM // Reply

    Take four cities(roughly) out of the mix and see how much the gun murder rate drops. In fact 2 counties alone account for roughly 50% of the firearm murders in the US. Hint: it’s nicknamed Chiraq for a reason.

  9. Jim Roberts // October 8, 2017 at 3:19 PM // Reply

    Wow, the ignorance and misinformation is this opinion piece is vast. Not hard to tell the research involved took all of 2 minutes. you are doing a disservice to your readers

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