A Canadian Gun Owner's Response To New Town
By James Wiebe
20 December, 2012
In the wake of yet another highly publicized mass shooting in the United States the response from guncontrol advocates has been predictable – knee-jerk demands for sticter gun laws. These well-intentioned and understandably horrified people must also be thinking that this surely demands a compassionate response from those who advocate the right to firearm ownership. The so-called ‘gun lobby’ in what is generally a highly emotional debate.
I am as outraged as anyone, and yet I am a member of that group. I am 67 years old; I grew up in a community where virtually every household owned firearms. As an adult when much of my life involved wildlife and environmental conservation issues, my colleagues both public and private were almost without exception considerate and responsible firearm owners, and we were not the exception. Canada has a relatively high level of firearm ownership (30.8 guns per 100 pop.) and yet a very low rate of civilian firearm homicide(0.51per 100,000 pop.), and that rate has been dropping steadily for the past several decades. Sociologists and criminologists tell us this has been mainly due to the demographics of an ageing population – older people tend to be less violent. The Canadian firearms community was understandably resentful when in 1995 our government began a process which viewed the mere possession and use of a fiream as a criminal matter
In America where 5 per cent of the world’s population owns an estimated 35 to 50 per cent of the world’s civilian firearms (88.8 per 100 pop.) the homicide rate is admittedly higher than in Canada (2.97 per 100,000 pop.), but the homicide rate there is dropping even faster than here! And the rate is quite modest when compared with many other countries which have far lower levels of gun ownership and far stricter gun laws. The United States in 28th place, is far down the list of countries who report firearm related civilian homicides.
Honduras with a firearm possesion rate of only 6.2 guns per 100 population has a civilian firearm homicide rate of 68.43 per 100,000 population.That is 23 murders for every one in America! Switzerland, with the third highest gun ownership in the world (4.2 million assault weapons are stored in private homes) has a civilian firearm related homicide rate of only 0.3 per 100,000 population.
Jamaica, that idylic winter vacation destination, has possibly the strictest gun control laws in the world. Ninety-nine per cent of the population are simply banned ownership, and unauthorised possession warrants an automatic life sentence; no appeal; no parole!Still, Jamaica has the world’s third highest civilian firearm homicde rate at 39.4 per 100,000! Clearly, limited firearm ownership and the imposition of strict gun laws are no guarantee of a peaceful society.
Why do we see a seeming escalation of senseless violence against the young and innocent in America , more so than elsewhere? Perhaps Americans in general, the intellectual elite not excepted, have become innured to it by the growing violence of their foreign and military policy. Americans are astute enough to realize their drone stikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan are not the surgical operations their leaders would have them believe. Independent British journalists have estimated that such attacks in Pakistan have resulted in up to 98 per cent civilian deaths – that is,’ collateral damage’ in the euphemism of the military, and of all too many journalists. These are the deaths of “beautiful children”, and innocent men and women; far more than are being killed by deranged gunmen in America, and they are ordered by supposedly compassionate leaders of their people. Under President Obama’s tenure these strikes have actually escalated from the level under President Bush!
If the American establishment genuinely seeks to curb violence in it’s civil society perhaps it would do well to examine it’s actions abroad. Other than that I can offer no advice, except perhaps to endorse the one and only proposal from the ‘moderates’ who drive the gun control agenda, that makes any sense to me and that is to work on efforts to restrict gun possession by the mentally unstable. Those in the ‘conservative’ camp who advocate harsher sentences for gun related crime also deserve to be heard, though the deterant effect of such a measure is debatable, as is evident in Jamaica.
James Wiebe is a former fisheries research biologist, and life-long activist for environmental conservation.
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