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No, seriously, please do keep responding by email to my column last week on handguns.
Last week, I looked at a position put forward by the Globe and Mail. In the wake of gun violence in Toronto, the Globe suggested making handguns prohibited weapons, banning their sale but allowing existing gun owners to keep their handguns. I couldn’t see a hole in that argument, and asked people to enlighten me.
And I got answers. I thought I’d share some of them this week. They came in from across Atlantic Canada, and as far afield as Victoria, B.C. — I’m not going to identify the authors, because many asked me not to.
By far the most common argument was “Why single out handguns?” Writers pointed out that plenty of things cause deaths, but no one talks about banning them. “Consider alcohol, for example. We don’t need alcohol. And although its abuse comes at a tremendous human cost to society, in terms of death, injury, and destruction of all kinds, we are entirely unwilling to give it up. … In fact, the cost of alcohol abuse far outweighs that of violent crime, especially gun crime. And yet, very few people are clamouring for the abolition of alcohol (again) or writing articles entitled ‘No one needs a drink.’”
Another writer said, “In a free and democratic society we accept some level of public safety risks in order to allow people to exercise their freedom to choose the activities they engage in. We don’t limit these choices based on ‘need’ but based on a balance of public and private interests, which is why there are reasonable limitations on our activities instead of outright bans.”
Others point out the already hefty regulation of handgun owners: “I/we are the most vetted citizens of this country…”
I was quite staggered by the number of people who don’t want to comment publicly, because they’re not interested in being personally attacked.
Another writer commented: “I had to pass the Canadian Firearms Course, the Canadian Restricted Firearm Course, and until recently have had to take the Ontario Wilderness Handgun Safety course every four or five years. I had background checks by the local police department, the (Ontario Provincial Police) as well as the RCMP. Because I have a firearms licence, I get checked every day by the RCMP computers to see if I have broken the law.”
Still others pointed out a ban wouldn’t change the supply of illegal weapons.
“By banning restricted firearms you’d be infringing on the liberty of close to a million law-abiding Canadians because of the actions of criminals. You may not like or approve of our chosen peaceful recreational activity, but should the majority have the right to take away our liberty because of their prejudice directed at we law abiding peaceful, fun seeking citizens all in reaction to the actions of criminals and murderers?”
Others spoke of the need for safety, both in the woods and from criminals: “Sometimes the bear can take you by surprise, so much by surprise that a rifle or shotgun is not going to do the trick because that bear is already on top of you, you need a pistol to pull out.”
“Until the day that all criminals of been stripped of all their illegal firearms especially handguns I say the playing field should be kept even. That is all.”
One final thing: I was quite staggered by the number of people who don’t want to comment publicly, because they’re not interested in being personally attacked.
That says something about the current state of public debate. I’m not the only person to be disturbed about that tone; as one writer said, “Most anti-gun (and pro-gun) articles I read are, as I mentioned earlier, so tainted with preconceived notions that they don’t present a thoughtful exchange, they simply become shouting matches. … Perhaps discussions between responsible firearms owners and those opposed to firearms can take on an aura of compromise, instead of ‘they versus them’? I sincerely hope so.”
I hope so, too.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.
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