Lookin’ down the barrel of a hackneyed controversy

Gun control debates rage across the country as another Dec. 6 passes, and the fear created 10 years ago by the Montreal Massacre re-opens old wounds.

A cruise through Statistics Canada’s homicide rates indicate that as many people are stabbed to death as are shot to death each year. Lagging behind in third place is people beaten to death. For gun control advocates, the margin between the three types of homicides is not as large as one might hope. For example, in 1998, 151 people were shot, 184 stabbed, and 126 beaten to death. In 1997, the numbers of shooting, stabbing and beating deaths were 193, 168 and 115 respectively. Now these statistics must be regarded suspiciously, but if they’re even remotely accurate, they leave gun control debates in murky water.

While legislators and lobbyists seek to ban the nefarious Ruger Mini-14 rifle used in Montreal, other semi-automatic weapons are left off the list. Assumedly, these others are not as dangerous because they have yet to participate in a horrific crime. Last year, a teenager shot and killed a classmate in Taber, Alberta with a .22 calibre rifle. As far as rifles go, the .22 is rather tame–piddly, in fact, when compared to larger calibre firearms. Still, it proved deadly, but nobody seems to want to ban this bad boy. Could it be that because the .22 is as common as grass on the prairie, nobody views it as any deadlier than a baseball bat or pocket knife?

New legislation requires all Canadians who own firearms to obtain a license by the end of 2000 and to register them by the end of 2002. Apparently, registry and restriction will reduce the number of firearms-related deaths each year. Well, statistically speaking, the number of deaths by firearms is on par with stabbing deaths. Should we ban the ever-handy kitchen knife too?

Now, like kids refusing to brush their teeth before bed, some owners absolutely refuse to register their firearms. They think the law requiring them to have a license and to register their firearm is absurd, saying the registry system will end up limiting gun ownership to the police and military.

These same people probably all applied for drivers’ licenses and register their cars each year with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Last time I checked, the military and police do not have a monopoly on cars and trucks.

Despite the disagreement between the statistics, legislation and the types of firearms to be banned, it’s important to keep a few things in mind before making your decision on gun control measures. Certainly, people kill people, not guns, knives or other implements of death, like cars and heavy objects. But if you walked into a school with the express intention of killing as many people as possible, what would you use, a baseball bat?

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