everybody’s talking about gun control

Unlike many of my American friends, I have no particular love for guns or for the notion that citizens should have the right to bear arms to protect themselves against government tyranny. For such friends, I remind them that from my perspective, the red coats were the good guys

I say that to establish this point at the outset: I have no particular axe to grind against gun control.

I do have questions about gun control, however. The biggest question is this: will it work?

The evidence, so far, is underwhelming.

Here in Canada, we’ve had gun control for a good long while. Some highlights:

  • Handguns are required to be registered since 1934.
  • Automatic weapons to be registered since 1951.
  • All fire-arms had to be registered as of 2001.
  • Long-gun registry abolished (see previous point) 2012.

In spite of a history of gun control, we have also had a history of mass shootings at schools in Canada as well:

  • October 10, 1902 – Altoona Schoolhouse, Altoona, Manitoba
  • May 28, 1975 – Brampton Centennial Secondary School, Brampton, Ontario
  • Oct 27, 1975 – St. Pius X High School, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Dec 6, 1989 – Marc LePine murdered 14 women at the University of Montreal
  • Aug 24, 1992 – Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec
  • Apr 28, 1999 – W. R. Myers High School, Taber, Alberta
  • Sept 13, 2006 – Dawson College, Montreal, Quebec
  • May 23, 2007 – C. W.Jeffrey’s Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Ontario
  • Sept 16, 2008 – Bendale Business and Technical Institute, Toronto, Ontario
  • Sept 30, 2010 – Central Technical School, Toronto, Ontario


Now then… we have had varying degrees of gun control through all this period, yet you can see that we still have had shootings at schools. Does gun control work?

Another example: Norway

I ask again, Does gun control work?

I don’t ask these questions as an advocate of unregulated gun sales. I don’t have a  huge problem with government regulations of gun ownership and sales. Canada’s recent experiment with the long gun registry doesn’t offend me so much on principles of liberty as on principles of practicality and the total incompetence and high costs with which it was administered.

What is the solution to mass murders/shootings? Is there a solution?

It is possible that government policies could be enacted to aid in preventing future tragedies. It doesn’t appear that more gun control will be likely to be among those policies that actually work.

And, as John Fund pointed out: “In reality, gun control in a country that already has 200 million privately owned firearms is likely to do little to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.” I don’t know how many guns exist in Canada, but we probably have a pile of them here, too. Gun control seems to be like the proverb of closing the barn door after the horse has already escaped.

What might work?

Some are advocating arming teachers, or at least having some armed individuals at public schools as a security precaution. This might limit the damage a shooter could cause, but I am sure there would be a hullabaloo as soon as one of these individuals accidentally shot an unarmed person who “looked like a threat”.

Others are advocating tougher mandatory institutionalization of unstable individuals. This might work – but a lot of people who would never cause such a crime might spend their lives in institutions. Is that what we want?

There are no easy answers to this question.

As a consequence, I think that we should be very careful about rushing forward some emotionally laden ‘solution’, especially if it resembles the solutions of the past. They obviously haven’t worked and it is very unlikely that they will work in the future. Perhaps it is time for something else?

And truly there is no political solution for these problems. The best we can hope for politically is to restrain and limit the number of such incidents and the amount of harm inflicted in such incidents.

For a real solution, we need wholesale spiritual change. That, however, will require the coming of the Prince of Peace. Would that it were today.


Update: Another important article to read is “Guns, Mental Illness and Newtown” by David Kopel, writing in the Wall Street Journal. He suggests three possible causes for an increase in mass killings in recent decades: 1) media exposure and the copy-cat syndrome, 2) the deinstitutionalization of the violently mentally ill, 3) the false security of so-called ‘gun-free’ zones (wishful thinking at best). His article deserves a sober look.

Update 2: Mark Snoeberger adds some good recommendations – “These Tragedies Must End”


  1. I think US gun control stands to be tweaked: 1.) criminal background checks when guns are purchased at gun shows; 2.) Limit the clip size to 8 (examples)

    The problem with the “assault weapons” provisions is that are basically about “the look” of the weapon.

    But the larger point is obviously that we live in a very sick, sin-cursed world.

    • I agree, Jim.

      In light of these events, I have been thinking about the whole issue in the states. I understand the background of the 2nd Amendment and the American notion of the right of revolution, but I have a hard time reconciling it with the Scriptures. There really is nothing wrong with limiting access to deadly weapons and requiring some kind of competency testing.

      However, having said that, I don’t think increased gun control will solve the problem of mass killings. If changes come as a result of this, it will make the liberals and bleeding hearts satisfied that they have done something, at least until the next one comes along.

      What is needed is a change of culture, but that isn’t likely to happen without a major revival.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      • Don, the American approach was based on the assumption that people are sinners, and that people in power are sinners, too, and will use their power sinfully to do even more damage. Thus, their power must be restricted.

        It wasn’t about the right of revolution — in America, the ultimate authority is the people, not the President, Congress, or courts. They divided powers among the branches so that none could be too powerful, but ultimately, they intended power to reside with the people.

        Thus, the right to bear arms was a last resort, a final check / balance, not to enable people to revolt, but to enable the people, the true authority, to put down usurpation of power.

        If the only people who have the effective means of warfare are those who are under the orders of government, you’ve removed any real check on government’s ability to usurp the authority of the people.

        Yes, the right to bear arms comes at a cost. The lack of effective restrictions on governmental authority comes at a cost, too, as Stalin, Mao, and others have demonstrated. And repeated instances have shown that the three branches of government may serve to limit the power of any one individual, but they are certainly not stopping the ever-increasing intrusion of statism.

        It won’t be the end of the Republic if restrictions on weapons becomes law. But it will make it more possible for a dictator to take power some day if such a law passes and is actually consistently enforced / obeyed — which I doubt.

        • Hi Jon

          Well, I don’t want to get into American political theory, though I understand and appreciate some of its points. I will just say that it is pretty hard to find a biblical defense for the revolution and some of its ideas.

          My main point in this piece is that gun control (though not an unreasonable concept) is unlikely to achieve the goal of reducing mass murders like the one at the Sandy Hook school. Something else needs to happen if we hope to actually reduce such tragedies.

          Don Johnson
          Jer 33.3

          • I understand, Don. We’d have to have a really good handle on the history to evaluate some of the arguments that I’ve heard on the war for independence. I was just quibbling over your words “right of revolution” because that isn’t what the second amendment was about.

            I agree entirely with your article. This is a sin problem, not a gun problem. Western societies have never been holy places, but the further they get from living (and being governed) by Biblical principles, the more tragedies of sin there will be.

          • heh, well, I don’t retract my words! I think it is what the second amendment is all about, but that’s really another topic, so I’ll leave it alone.

            Don Johnson
            Jer 33.3

          • That’s ok, I refuted them for you, so you don’t have to retract them. What are friends for, anyway? :)

          • heh, heh, you are a funny man.

            Don Johnson
            Jer 33.3

  2. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Don, very much agree with your point, gun control will not stop criminals from committing crimes. Jon, very well put overview of American heritage. It would be great if more of our citizens understood what you have so very well stated.
    This is indeed a heart issue that will not disappear even if all guns were confiscated. Cain didn’t use a gun to kill Abel his brother way back when and millions of other have been slain without firearms because sinful men do sinful deeds.
    I find the conversation within my country most disturbing on several fronts in the wake of this tragedy. The sentimentalism of the PC driven crowd “to do something, anything” to appease their consciences is more harmful in the long run. I am one of those who our president disdained a few years ago by stating that we “cling to our guns and our religion.” I make no apology for that. And with that said, I grieve that my nation has moved so far away from God. Yes, revival is what is needed for ours and every other nation on this planet.

  3. Keith says:

    One of the rare times I agree with you! Well, everything except the redcoats being the good guys. Tryants and law breakers are never the good guys. The law is over the king, not the other way around.


    • Hi Keith, long time no hear… from both of us! I am busy with another site and post here only occasionally. Hope to change that, but time is limited.

      Well, don’t want to get into a discussion of the Revolution, but George III was hardly a tyrant. He might have been insane. But not a tyrant.

      As to the topic at hand, I’ve been thinking about it a good deal lately, since it is in the news. I may write another piece on this, but in short, my thoughts are going more towards licensing of individuals rather than banning guns. Americans may not like that idea given their history and constitution, but we license the use of cars, why not the use of guns?

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3