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”