They’re debating the gun registry in the Canadian Parliament today. Those who oppose the gun registry say the shootings at Dawson College last week are proof that the gun registry is not working. The Conservatives, in particular, claim this. They want to replace the gun registry with tougher penalties for gun-related crimes.
Without getting into a long rant (although you know I want to) here are a few abbreviated points to consider if you happen to be among those who fall for those simplistic assertions:
Argument: The shootings at Dawson College are proof that the gun registry is not working.
Rebuttal: The problem with that analysis is that it depends entirely on knowledge of what is (or was) and not on what might have been. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know what crimes were prevented by the existence of the gun registry because they didn’t happen. This is where faith and a bit of logic steps in: if you make guns harder to get, then there will be fewer guns in circulation, and fewer unstable people with guns.
The key there is fewer, not none. No one in their right mind expects any sort of gun control to completely eliminate all gun crime. The objective of gun control is to reduce the risk.
I’m sure there is a large cast of marginal, angry, half-crazy, depressed, and maniacal characters out there who tried to get a gun and couldn’t. Imagine what it would be like if it were easy for them. Unfortunately, a few such people still can get a gun here in Canada, despite the gun control laws, but it is (or should be) indisputeable that the risk is reduced with those controls in place.
Argument: Tougher penalties for gun crimes will deter people from committing crimes with guns.
Rebuttal: Yes, it most likely would deter some people from committing lesser crimes with guns. For example, instead of holding up a gas station with a gun, they will use a knife, or a baseball bat.
However, tougher gun penalties would have had no effect on the guy who shot up Dawson College last week, killing one and seriously wounding more than a dozen. He was most likely mentally ill, and was suicidal. He wouldn’t have cared in the least what the penalty was.
Nor would it have deterred the guy who shot up the École Polytechnique in 1989, killing 14 and seriously wounding 13. (Note I am not using the killers’ names – these guys have gotten too much publicity already.) He too was suicidal and would not have given a tinker’s damn about the penalty. Arguably, the same could be said about the professor at Concordia who shot that place up in 1994, killing four colleagues. Although he was not known to be suicidal, he was dillusional and felt justified in his acts. A tough penalty wouldn’t have stopped him.
I’m not opposed to tough penalties for gun crimes; in fact I kind of like the idea. But that’s a reactive solution. It should be linked with efforts to prevent those crimes from happening in the first place, which means, among other things, making it harder to obtain guns.