Gun Control in the Wake of Dawson College

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.

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7 thoughts on “Gun Control in the Wake of Dawson College

  1. My question is who is served by having easier access to guns? Is it that much of an inconvenience to wait a few days to get a gun? Doesn’t a safer society outweigh that? We need a permit to drive and even to fish, so a gun registry follows in that vain.

  2. I also think that it’s time to revisiit wide swaths of classes of guns. And we need to start looking at usages. The guns that dickface had at Dawson were not target guns, they were (at least the main one was) weapons aimed at the police market.

  3. But does that make any difference? If that gun had been illegal he just would have used a legal one.

    Ironically, the gun he used at Dawson was not very powerful, which might explain why so many people were shot but only one died. Compare that with the gun that was used at the Ecole Polytechnique, which was a powerful hunting rifle (although not, as is often and erroneously reported, an “assault rifle”).

    In the Dawson case it might have been a strange kind of blessing that he used the restricted weapon.

  4. They say he passed twenty-one separate checks to legally qualify for these weapons and the entire lengthy process took nearly a year. That’s incredible. And what about the large number of sane and law-abiding Canadians out there who still completely refuse to jump through half as many hoops in order to own their own non-restricted weapons legally? Maybe this tells us that our gun laws are too restrictive, to the point where only a mentally ill individual would fully abide by them as Kimveer Gill did.

    Instead of tougher penalties and more restrictions; why not address the problem at its source instead? The dropout rate for boys in Québec is shamefully high. And job prospects for those who do remain in school (and carry a crippling debt load afterwards) aren’t exactly bright. The educational system is failing them. This impacts all of society. No gun laws or penalties in the world can protect you from the anger of someone who senselessly falls between the cracks in their youth. Why not at least attempt to fix the problem before it becomes a problem?

  5. If you want to get into causes, I note that no one has mentioned Jan Wong’s article here (the racism card). Neither has anyone mentioned youth subcultures that glorify gangsterism, promote contempt (hatred) of others, and have a fascination with morbidity and even death. Finally, there’s the alleged bullying in schools which it is also alleged goes largely ignored by administrators. It must be very difficult to be an adolescent these days. And it ain’t only the school system that’s failing them.

  6. The people in Dawson College can be thankful that the gunman did not use his shotgun or a hunting rifle or else everyone who was shot would have been killed. The gun he used is a glorified pistol and pistols shoot low powered ammunition. Contrary to popular movie beliefs they are not super weapons. A hunting rifle is designed to kill and so is the ammo for it. A shotgun produces horrific wounds, which can be very difficult for surgeons to repair.

    Don’t confuse firearm licensing and the gun registry. The first one is about licensing the individual, the 2nd one is making a (incomplete) paper trail on the firearm. The licensing of firearm owners is supposed to prevent this type of event, but the police and the firearm Centre admit that they don’t check up most peoples references as it cost to much money & time!!!
    The registry is costing us $270,000 a day, for every month it runs you can hire 90 Police Officers for a year!!

    We are also lucky that the Montreal police learned the lessons of 1989 well. The key to saving lives is to be aggressive and attack the shooter with whatever you have available, that is what they did and they can be commended for it. In the US several school shootings were thwarted by armed teachers, yet the media avoids mentioning this, why?
    Dawson has over 10,000 students, yet the school is to cheap to provide effective security for them, how many towns of 10,000 people don’t have a police detachment?

    To stop theses shootings is very simple
    Provide effective security for large groups of people
    Enforce the existing laws
    Actually check the references and application of firearm licences

  7. While I’m sure folks will disagree, stronger laws really aren’t solving things either. Here in California, we have some of the most strict gun laws in the country, 10 day waiting periods, you can’t buy a gun & ammo at the same time, required trigger locks, ‘assault weapon” bans, criminal penalties if your kid touches the gun when you’re not home, only 1 gun purchase per month, mandatory Department of Justice background checks, etc… and our crime rates are way out of control. Why? It’s not the people that *legally* purchase firearms that are the problem. It’s the criminals that are getting many of them from our porous southern border or other places. Most of our homicides are black men shooting other black men. (Don’t believe me? Want to be a lamer and pull the race card? Check out the FBI’s own stats at the Uniform Crime Report.) There’s a huge subculture among these people that glorifies violence & misogyny. The rest of us simply want to exercise our Constitutional right to protect ourselves.
    All the gun laws in the world didn’t seem to stop this guy from being a psycho and shooting people. It’s just too bad that there wasn’t really anybody there to fire back and take him out before he killed people.

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