Canadian gun legislation getting riddled with bullet holes

The Weal ― OpinionsOn Dec. 13, 2012—one day before the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut—Canada made it possible for arms manufacturers to export prohibited fully automatic weapons to Colombia.
While Canada—unlike the United States—has a low number of firearm homicides, Colombia does not.

According to a 2010 report by the Organization of American states, Colombia had 17,459 homicides that year – roughly 37.7 deaths per 100,000. Approximately 79.9 per cent of those homicides were committed with firearms. In contrast, Canada only had 554 homicides in 2010, 1.6 deaths per 100,000 people, 29 per cent of which were committed with firearms.

Assault weapons, those that are either semi- or fully-automatic, are banned in Canada and many other countries with low homicide statistics. On the same day that the Sandy Hook shooting was committed with an assault rifle, another attack took place in China’s Henan province, also at an elementary school. The difference between the assault in Connecticut and the one in Henan—China has strict gun control laws, similar to those in Canada—are the results of the attacks. Sandy Hook ended with 28 homicides. The Henan attack, which was perpetrated by a man with a knife, ended with 22 injuries.

No country is immune to acts of aggression or extreme violence, but by limiting access to weapons that can kill so many in such a short period of time, we’re limiting how much destruction can be done. No one can argue that assault rifles are for hunting or sport, or even personal defence. There is a reason they’re banned in Canada, and by exporting fully automatic weapons, or others with large magazines, to a country that has long been going through violent turmoil and human rights abuses, we are committing a human rights abuse ourselves.

If we are looking to limit gun deaths, both abroad and at home, the first place to start is with our gun legislation. In the past year, the Harper government has scrapped the long gun registry, as well as gun show regulations.

When the long gun registry was introduced in 1977, a study by the Canadian Journal of Criminology showed a significant decline in gun deaths over the following year.

Canada’s two worst school shootings, at Montréal’s école Polytechnique and Dawson College, were perpetrated by a Ruger Mini-14 and a Beretta Cx4 Storm, respectively. The Ruger Mini-14 was used by Anders Breivik to kill 77 in Oslo, Norway in 2011. Neither gun is restricted in Canada, and since the gun registry was scrapped anywhere outside Quebec one can purchase the guns without registration. In fact, both guns can be purchased online from a popular Saskatchewan firearms retailer and delivered directly to your home.

Public Safety Minister, Vic Toews, is now considering opening the doors to assault weapons in Canada. His recently appointed firearms advisory committee proposed on Dec. 6, coincidentally the 23rd anniversary of the école Polytechnique massacre, that the government consider easing up a number of gun restrictions, including assault weapons prohibitions.

In response to the Sandy Hook massacre, Prime Minister Harper released a statement that Canada’s gun controls “work”.

If the government chooses to keep devaluing public safety in favour of economic gain, they won’t “work” much longer.

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