Oh, no, Canada!

December 27, 2005 – You know, it’s amazing how stupid Governments can be, especially when they’ve been caught red-handed siphoning off millions of taxpayer dollars into their party coffers.

Such is the dilemma of the Liberal Party of Canada, who currently are running the minority federal Government, headed by Prime Minister Paul Martin MP.  The other main Canadian political parties, the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois finally lost patience with the Government at the end of November.  This was after a public inquiry came to the conclusion that a Govt.-run “sponsorship” programme, designed to promote the idea of Canada in the separatist-leaning province of Québec, had instead been used to divert millions of dollars of taxpayer funds via a complex system of fraud involving advertising agencies into the Liberal Party coffers in Québec.  Although Martin represents a constituency in Montréal, the inquiry came to the conclusion he probably wasn’t involved in the fraud.  However, the opposition parties decided to call a motion of no-confidence, which they easily won because of the minority position of the current Government.  And thus a General Election had to be called.

Move on to December 9th, and with the Liberal Party facing annihilation in seat-rich Québec and also in much of western Canada, the Prime Minister decided to respond to public concern about a spate of homicides in Toronto by promising a national ban on handguns, in an attempt to curry favour with voters in the large province of Ontario.  And to no-one’s great surprise, this was met with adulation by the Liberal Mayor and Liberal Premier of the province.  Outside the community centre where he made the announcement, things were not quite so rosy, as a local girl pointed out that the ban would not prevent criminals from obtaining guns.  An article appeared in the Toronto Star indicating that one of his own MPs in Ontario wasn’t particularly happy about the idea, and neither was a local criminologist.

Although the Toronto Star predictably editorialised in favour of the ban (with some caveats), the rest of the press editorialised against it for the most part: 

This is laughable – Toronto Sun
It’s hard to fathom how the ban will reduce crime – Globe and Mail
Resources should be devoted to catching real criminals, not meaningless bans – Calgary Herald

What would we have given here in the UK for such editorials when the handgun ban was announced here?  (Which according to the Home Office has not succeeded in reducing armed crime, have a read of the summary on page 31 – and table 2.1 on the next page, particularly the  “all weapons excluding air weapon” part, which shows a steady rise since the handgun ban in 1997 – it had actually been falling prior to the handgun ban).

However, perhaps the biggest indication that the Prime Minister was in trouble before his proposal had even gotten off the ground was demonstrated by provincial governments immediately after the announcement.  The Prime Minister indicated that the ban would work by putting an “opt-in” provision in the Criminal Code that provinces and territories could sign up to: by the end of December 10th, the Governments of Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan had announced that they would not be opting in!  Bear in mind that both British Columbia and Saskatchewan have Liberal Governments.

Even the police have their doubts, as Tony Cannavino, the president of the Canadian Professional Police Association: “disagreed that a sweeping ban on handguns would be very successful in combating urban violence, considering that most guns used in shootings are obtained illegally”, although as you would expect, he welcomed the idea of spending more money on law enforcement activities.

In the face of all this, even the largest anti-gun organisation in Canada, the Coalition for Gun Control appeared to be hedging its bets, as the head of the organisation, Wendy Cukier, indicated that the CGC have taken no position on the proposed ban.

This is perhaps not surprising, when the specifics of such a ban are looked at in detail.

The first problem is that it’s not really clear what impact such a ban would have.  The Prime Minister and the Mayor of Toronto have been saying that: “half” of handguns used in crime in Toronto were stolen from legal gun owners, however this is a misrepresentation of an investigation conducted by the Toronto Police.  According to those statistics, in fact only 16% of handguns seized by Toronto Police were listed as: “stolen”.  The statistics also involve a guesstimate of how many guns seized with obliterated serial numbers originated in Canada; not exactly scientific.  A small fraction were: “too old” to trace, so they probably pre-date licensing laws that were introduced in 1934, or are maybe war trophies that were never declared.  12%, (or a quarter of the guns the politicians say were stolen) are listed as: “not registered”, but not smuggled or stolen.  This probably indicates they are air pistols or antiques or something along those lines.  Even if the guns are listed as: “stolen”, they could have been stolen from dealers, not individual gun owners.

Hardly a convincing statistic, especially as only a fraction of guns used in crime would be seized.  Even the police are not certain that the guns themselves are actually “crime guns”, they are merely listed as: “potential crime guns”.   It really is the vaguest of estimates, based to a significant degree on guess work.  Even if taken as the gospel truth, it still indicates that 52% of seized handguns originated in the United States.  Certainly it cannot be taken as representative of the situation of Canada as a whole, as some anti-gun commentators have tried to do.

Another statistic not receiving as much press comes from a joint task force organised by the Ontario Solicitor General of six regional police forces in Ontario, including the Toronto Police Service as well as Canadian Customs and the US agency, ATF, called “Operation Gun Runner”, which in a nine-month period in 1995 seized 193 handguns from illegal dealers across Ontario.  166 of these were found to have been illegally smuggled into Canada from a wide variety of sources.  Not a recent statistic, admittedly, but in fact the handgun laws in Canada are more restrictive today than they were in 1995.

The second problem with this proposed ban are the physical complexities of actually implementing it.  There are roughly 530,000 handguns in Canada, about 166,000 of which are are already prohibited (any handgun with a barrel of 105mm or less, or .32 or .25 calibre), but grandfathered to their owners (who can transfer them to owners of other prohibited handguns).  There are 183,000 people licensed to own handguns in Canada (compared with 57,000 who owned them in GB – so in other words six times as many owners per capita, roughly).

This figure compares with just over 200,000 handguns that were legally possessed in Great Britain prior to the handgun ban here, about 160,000 of which were surrendered for compensation (the rest were either deactivated, exported or were exempt for various reasons, for the most part).  The handgun ban here cost £97 million back when the figures were tallied around 1999.  Take into account inflation and the much larger number of handguns in Canada, then if you assume 80% of them are turned in for compensation as was the case here, you come up with a figure around $600 million!

That is a gigantic sum of money, and no doubt if spent on traditional crime reduction strategies in Canada would have a far more profound impact.  Evidence of just how out of touch the Canadian Liberal Party is with this reality can be seen in their own press release.  This indicates that they reckon the total cost will be only $150 million – which is less than the cost of our ban even though we had less than two-fifths as many handguns!

However, in his address at the Elmbank Community Centre in Rexdale, Ontario, the PM said that the Government would spend $1.9 million to: “give hope” to the community.  As we would say in Britain; pull the other one, mate, it’s got bells on!

We can only hope that the Canadian people will vote the Liberals out on January 23rd.  Because truly, among hair-brained “gun control” schemes this has to be one of the most stupid ever.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – President Abraham Lincoln