A national royal commission is needed to settle the issue of gun control, says Elliott Leyton.
ntrol, says Elliott Leyton.
“I would like to see people who are professionally qualified, serious thinkers on a subject asked to prepare something a major royal commission — a significant determination without just slapping crazy new rules and regulations, a serious attempt to solve the problem of how you monitor people without compromising privacy and individual freedom,” said Leyton, an expert on serial homicide and professor emeritus of anthropology at Memorial University.
“Nobody takes this serious. Political debate should not be used to resolve a really complicated social issue. … It’s a really complex question that never did get the dignity of serious analysis that it deserves.”
Brian Dawe killed his former girlfriend, Julianne Hibbs, and her boyfriend, Vince Dillon, in Manuels Oct. 15. Dawe was found dead in a vehicle in the Anglican cemetery on Kenmount Road the next morning.
He was wearing body armour, and had a 9mm handgun, an AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in clips.
From his residence, police seized six restricted guns, 12 non-restricted guns and 25 air rifles.
All the guns were legally acquired, according to the RNC. But he was in illegal possession of ammunition.
The shock of the crime was followed by public dismay over revelations of the extent of Dawe’s firearm ownership.
Leyton is also a collector, who grew up with guns in rural Saskatchewan and enjoys hunting and sport shooting.
An AK-47 with a five-round magazine in responsible hands is no more dangerous than a hunting rifle, he said.
“It’s when these creeps get hold of illegal magazines floating around the system that (the gun) becomes a problem,” he said.
Leyton said his position on gun ownership has changed because of horrific shootings — such as the 1996 Dunblane, Scotland, school massacre and the 2012 shooting of 20 children and several adults at a Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
“I personally no longer believe unilaterally in the rights of shooters. I am always willing to make compromises much more than I was before,” Leyton said.
“There have been so many atrocities. ... These lunatics and these guns are scary and require much greater and intense control. Nobody has figured out the secret to doing it properly.”
But he said it’s a difficult conundrum because the clues may not exist to differentiate a gun collector or enthusiast from someone with a sinister agenda — someone who has been brooding and planning.
“If there are clues, we haven’t discovered them and that is the bottom line,” Leyton said.
“What it needs is a genuine political will allied with a sense of responsibility and moderation. You have to have proper professional assessments of what can be done, what is feasible and what is humanly possible and what is a legitimate compromise in risk assessment and proper analysis.”
The public can take comfort that firearms officers do follow up on applications, watch owners carefully and will confiscate weapons with cause, Leyton noted, but he added they are not clinically trained in psychology.
He praised the Canadian Firearms Program application to own restricted and prohibited weapons for the requirements to have a spouse or former spouse (from a relationship within two years) sign off on ownership. The form also contains a section on personal information such as questions about state of mind, past incidents of violence, divorce, separation, bankruptcy and other issues.
Applicants must also take a firearms safety course and provide references.
An applicant who is disturbed may get through the system by ticking the right boxes, and that leaves a problem of judgment not easily resolved.
“Those regulations sound good, but probably require a little closer examination. … We do need a better system. I don’t know what it is going to be,” Leyton said.
When tragedies occur, the debate of gun ownership pits gun enthusiasts and gun haters on opposite sides of an emotional issue.
“The real question is public safety and its collision in this case with the desires of recreational shooters or collectors. It is a very tricky issue not fully resolved and perhaps never will be,” Leyton said.