Editorial – Canadian gun culture

The terrible tragedy in Toronto last week, in which two people were killed and 23 people were injured at a neighbourhood party after someone pulled a gun and started shooting, has naturally occupied the Toronto-centric media in Canada.

If such a tragedy had happened anywhere else in the country, it would get far less attention. After a few days, the stories would be buried or non-existent.

Nonetheless, the incident has illustrated a few points which the public would do well to pay close attention to. One is that young people are often carrying handguns — far more than most people would suspect. This is just as common here as in Toronto, as many people even peripherally involved in the drug trade consider a handgun necessary.

Another point is that most handguns are illegally brought in from the United States, where they are widely available. Perhaps some sort of sophisticated gun detectors could be considered for installation at all busy border crossings. Most of these guns are coming in by car, and it is impossible for customs officers to search even a fraction of the vehicles that cross the border.

A third and perhaps surprising point is that a significant minority of guns used by young people have been stolen from legitimate handgun owners in Canada. This means there needs to be a very heavy emphasis on storing guns in locked containers, and keeping ammunition and clips in separate locations. For guns that can be partially taken apart, it would be best if the parts are stored in several different locations.

There is no need to put further restrictions on legitimate handgun owners. They are already under tight restrictions, and almost every single one is a law-abiding citizen.

This issue also demonstrates the folly of the long gun registry. Those guns are almost never used in crimes. They are impossible to conceal and often cumbersome to shoot in a busy area. The Conservative government did the right thing in getting rid of such a useless tool.

It would be far better to take some of the money spent on that registry and use it to improve scanning for guns at border points, and to ensure that registered owners of handguns are doing all they can to prevent their weapons from being stolen and used by crooks.

Canada has generally had a common sense policy on guns. They are seen as necessary tools in rural areas, and as unnecessary in cities. This is as it should be. It’s time that any additional steps necessary, which would prevent handguns from getting into the hands of young people, are taken.

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