Gun Control In Canada Essay, Research Paper
Gun Control is an important issue to Canadians in today’s society. Canada has both provincial and federal legislation that restricts the sale, purchase, and use of different kinds of firearms. The United States, on the other hand, do not have federal or state bills restricting the possession or use of firearms, only local laws exist there. A firearm consists of any barreled weapon from which a shot, bullet or other missile can be fired and that is capable of causing serious bodily harm or death. Society’s concerns about protection from violent crimes involving firearms have encouraged Canadian Parliament to pass tougher gun control legislation. The Federal Government responded by passing Bill C-68 that created the Firearms Act, which came into effect in December of 1998. This is by far the strictest gun control law to date. Many Canadians objected to this legislation and wanted it repealed because they believe it is an unnecessary waste of tax dollars to further license and monitor law abiding gun owners. Firearm laws have become an extensive debate in society and also politics. Politicians from western provinces and rural areas are opposed to these stricter laws because there is a more widespread acceptance and use for guns around them. On the opposite side are politicians from urban areas where crime rates are higher, who embrace the new harsher gun control laws as one solution to violent crimes. There are many pros and cons to the recently passed Firearms Act to control guns in Canada. Severe gun control laws do not limit crime sufficiently enough and it is not worth the government money being spent on it. Government intervention in the licensing of firearms in Canada first took place in 1892.
Prior to 1892 all that was needed in Canada to avoid a six-month jail sentence was a reasonable cause to fear assault against life or property (“History of Firearms”, 2000). In 1892 was the first government step in licensing firearms. A basic permit for pistols was introduced in the Criminal Code. In 1913 it became a criminal offence to sell or distribute firearms to anyone under 16 years old. Government finally recognized that children should not have possession of a firearm. Until 1934 firearm registration was rarely an enforced offence. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police kept records of those purchasing firearms. Handguns had to be re-registered every five years starting in 1939. It also became an offence to alter the serial numbers on guns as records were kept and gun transactions were being monitored. 1951 was the next step in gun control legislation having automatic fire guns added to the list of firearms that were to be registered. A list to categorize firearms as ‘restricted weapons’ and ‘prohibited weapons’ was created in 1968 (“History of Firearms”, 2000). By this time police were become allowed to search and seize firearms with a judge issued warrant or if they had reasonable grounds that the safety of the public was at stake. On August 5, 1977 Bill C-51 was given royal assent. This bill imposed stricter penalties for those convicted of an indictable offence where a firearm had been used. Bill C-51 also created the requirement of a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) to properly screen those purchasing guns and to keep records of firearms purchased. A FAC had to be renewed in order to purchase more guns. This allowed the government to declare who was competent to own a gun. The early 1990’s brought on stricter gun control laws. Bill
-17 came into force between 1992 and 1994. It saw many reforms in licensing firearms, FAC screenings, and harsher penalties to those convicted of crimes involving firearms. FAC applicants had to provide identification and two references, have a background check, go through safety training, and then to wait 28 days to receive their FAC. This was the strictest gun control law to date in Canada, until Justice Minister Allan Rock and the Chretien government introduced Bill C-68 in 1995.
Bill C-68 created the most controversial gun control legislation in Canada, the Firearms Act. The Firearms Act added a new licensing system for firearms and Criminal Code reforms concerning criminal use of firearms. The Firearms Act comes into full force January 1, 2003 and the deadline for all firearm owners to get a license is January 1, 2001 (“Phasing-in Plan”, 2000). The FAC system is replaced by the new licensing system created by this act. A license is now required to possess and acquire firearms, and to buy ammunition. Even mere possession for a gun collection requires that one have this new license. All firearms including all shotguns and rifles used for hunting must be registered. The Firearms Act included Criminal Code amendments providing harsher penalties for certain crimes where firearms were used (“History of Firearms”, 2000). Kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder where firearms had been used are a few examples of these crimes. This is a controversial bill because it was appealed to the Supreme court of Canada by the Alberta Court of Appeal saying that the licensing and registration provisions of the Firearms Act are provincial jurisdiction and not federal. A unanimous decision by the Supreme Court stated the Firearms Act did not undermine provincial power and
The Firearms Act possesses all three criteria required for a criminal law. Gun
control has traditionally been considered valid criminal law because guns are
dangerous and pose a risk to public safety. The regulation of guns as dangerous
products is a valid purpose within the criminal law power. That purpose is
connected to prohibitions backed by penalties. (“Supreme Court Decision”, 2000)
Bill C-68 proved to be constitutional and the Firearms Act looked very efficient on paper. Parliament has taken a step in satisfying the public need for protection against violent criminal acts with the use firearms.
Violent crime is an issue that most Canadians take seriously. It coincides with the control of guns in society. For every civilian home where a firearm is owned, it increases the chance that it may fall into the hands of a criminal. Everyone wants to feel safe in their own homes and communities. Most Canadians purchase firearms for recreational use and not for protection. If this is the case then the answer to the question of whether guns are necessary in society is no. Whether guns should be this tightly registered and monitored is what the controversy is about. Citizens in the western provinces and rural areas in Canada argue the existing gun control laws are too severe whereas many urban Canadians applaud the law.
There are some quality aspects to defend the strict gun control policy in Canada. The fact that all firearms must be registered and background checks on those who purchase firearms are commendable. It assures that people with criminal records can not purchase firearms. Every year over 3000 firearms are reported stolen, and when every firearm is registered it makes the stolen firearm more easily traceable. Gun control legislation raised the legal age of operation and possession of firearms to try to prevent minor from operating firearms. “The third leading cause of death among Canadians from 15-24 years of age are guns” (“Too young, 2000, p. B4). Automobiles, if used recklessly, can cause harm or death to others therefore a driver license is needed to operate one. So surely the licensing of all firearms is not an unjust law. Guns are especially
angerous if they fall in to the wrong hands at the wrong time. A statistic from 1992 shows that “40% of the women killed by their husbands are shot, and 78% of those guns were legally owned” (Dickinson, Liepner, Talos, & Buckingham, 1996, p. 429-430). Background checks and registration help to keep firearms away from those with mental disorders and documented anger problems. There are enough sufficient arguments to support gun control, but the Firearms Act is not the most effective way to solve violent crimes or any crime in general.
The Firearms Act is not the answer to solving violent crime. The national crime rate fell in 1999 to its lowest level in two decades, but academics say the public remains unconvinced and believe crime is increasing (Ward, 2000). The belief that very restrictive gun control laws will reduce violent crime is unrealistic. The crime rate has been decreasing long before the strict gun control laws introduced in the 1990’s. Violent and other crimes involving firearms will continue to happen with or without strict gun control laws. This will happen because any crime can be committed with any type of weapons, and gun control does not prevent a registered firearm from getting stolen. An all out prohibition of ownership of any type of firearm by civilians would not work because they could be smuggled in to the country. Also prohibition is an ineffective means of controlling firearms because like drugs, they are illegal, and yet it is still a major problem in society. Politicians are the representatives of the people in society, and gun control is always one of the issues on their election platform. Most of the people who agree that stricter firearm laws are not the answer live in an area where guns are more widespread and accepted. They realize that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. In urban areas of Canada crime and violence are visible on television, in the newspaper or unfortunately sometimes witnessed first hand. People want to know there is something happening to ensure their safety. Does gun control make people feel safer because there are fewer guns in society, or that criminals can not get a hold of guns because there are fewer. Bill C-17 was very restrictive, which gave way to the more severe Bill C-68 and the Firearms Act. The amount of government spending that is being issued to monitor and license law abiding firearm owners seems to be the wrong solution. In terms of cost-effectiveness it looks like too much time and money is being spent to control guns and not enough is being put into the prevention of crime. A scapegoat has been made out of gun control where society blames guns as the reason behind for violent crime and not the individual. Individuals who commit crimes most likely have come from broken homes, poverty, and abusive relationships. There are never enough crime prevention programs, suicide prevention centres, and women’s crisis centres. Organized crime and biker gangs are a problem in some communities, but not because of guns. They have plenty of firearms smuggled into the country that gun control legislation will not protect anyone from. More police officers and anti-smuggling campaigns should be established to combat these gang wars. The government spending to finance firearm restrictions could be spent more efficiently on more crime prevention measures. It is time to stop blaming guns for crimes and start using tax-dollars more efficiently to reduce crime.
Crime is something that is extremely important to have under control in society. Gun control is not as crucial to controlling crime as it is made out to be. An absolute absence of gun control is also not the answer, although a balance has to be established. It should not be weighed as a major cause of crime because firearms are only present in about 5 percent of violent crimes. Instead, reducing crime by means of crime prevention should be given the significance that gun control occupies today. The govern
ent of Canada spends too large a sum of money to support the Firearms Act. The Firearms Act is legislation that is too strict and gun control does not have sufficient evidence to prove crime has been reduced because of it. Gun control should be toned down to make room for government spending on alternative methods of crime prevention.
Bill 67 2000: An Act to protect the public by regulating the sale of replicas of firearms.
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Bill 133 2000: An Act to regulate the sale of imitation firearms. (2000, December 7).
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Dickinson, G. M., Liepner, M., Talos, S., & Buckingham, D. (1996). Understanding The
Law (2nd ed.). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
History of Firearms Control in Canada up to and including the Firearms Act. (1998,
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Phasing-in Plan of Firearms Act 2000-2003. (2000, March 7). [Online]. Available
Reference re Firearms Act (Can.): Supreme Court Decision. (2000, June 15). [Online].
Too young for guns. (2000, August 8). Toronto Star, p. B4.
Ward, J. (2000, July). Crime rate drops to 20-year low. Hamilton Spectator, p. D5.