Issue Of Gun Control And Violence Essay

Issue Of Gun Control And Violence- Essay, Research Paper Issue of Gun Control and Violence- The issue of gun control and violence, both in Canada and the United States, is one that simply will not go away. If history is to

Issue Of Gun Control And Violence- Essay, Research Paper

Issue of Gun Control and Violence-

The issue of gun control and violence, both in Canada and the

United States, is one that simply will not go away. If history is to

be any guide, no matter what the resolution to the gun control debate

is, it is probable that the arguments pro and con will be much the

same as they always have been. In 1977, legislation was passed by the

Canadian Parliament regulating long guns for the first time,

restructuring the availability of firearms, and increasing a variety

of penalties . Canadian firearms law is primarily federal, and

“therfore national in scope, while the bulk of the firearms regulation

in the United States is at the state level; attempts to introduce

stricter leglislation at the federal level are often defeated”.

The importance of this issue is that not all North Americans

are necessarily supportive of strict gun control as being a feasible

alternative to controlling urban violence. There are concerns with the

opponents of gun control, that the professional criminal who wants a

gun can obtain one, and leaves the average law-abiding citizen

helpless in defending themselves against the perils of urban life. Is

it our right to bear arms as North Americans? Or is it privilege? And

what are the benefits of having strict gun control laws? Through the

analysis of the writings and reports of academics and experts of gun

control and urban violence, it will be possible to examine the issues

and theories of the social impact of this issue.

Part II: Review of the Literature

A) Summary

In a paper which looked at gun control and firearms violence

in North America, Robert J. Mundt, of the University of North

Carolina, points out that “Crime in America is popularly perceived [in

Canada] as something to be expected in a society which has less

respect for the rule of law than does Canadian society…” . In 1977,

the Canadian government took the initiative to legislate stricter gun

control. Among the provisions legislated by the Canadian government

was a “Firearms Acquisition Certificate” for the purchase of any

firearm, and strengthened the “registration requirements for handguns

and other restricted weapons…” .

The purpose of the 1977 leglislation was to reduce the

availability of firearms, on the assumption that there is a “positive

relationship between availability and use”. In Robert J. Mundt’s

study, when compared with the United States, trends in Canada over the

past ten years in various types of violent crime, suicide, and

accidental death show no dramatic results, “and few suggestions of

perceptible effects of the 1977 Canadian gun control legislation”. The

only positive effect , Mundt, found in the study was the decrease in

the use of firearms in robbery with comparion to trends in the United

States . Informed law enforcement officers in Canada, as in the United

States, view the “impact of restricting the availability of firearms

is more likely to impact on those violent incidents that would not

have happened had a weapon been at hand”(152).

In an article by Gary A. Mauser of the Simon Fraser University

in British Columbia, he places special emphasis on the

attitudes towards firearms displayed by both Canadians and Americans.

According to Mauser, large majorities of the general public in both

countries “support gun control legislation while simultaneously

believing that they have the right to own firearms” (Mauser 1990:573).

Despite the similarities, there are apparent differences between the

general publics in the two countries. As Mauser states that “Canadians

are more deferent to authority and do not support the use of handguns

in self defence to the same extent as Americans”.

As Mauser points out that “it has been argued that cultural

differences account for why Canada has stricter gun control

legislation than the United States”(575). Surprisingly enough,

nationwide surveys in both Canada and the United States “show

remarkable similarity in the public attitude towards firearms and gun

control”(586). Both Canada and the United States were originally

English colonies, and both have historically had similar patterns of

immigration. Moreover, Canadians are exposed to American television

(both entertainment and news programming) and, Canadians and Americans

read many of the same books and magazines. As a result of this, the

Canadian public has adopted “much of the American culture” .

In an article by Catherine F. Sproule and Deborah J. Kennett

of Trent University, they looked at the use of firearms in Canadian

homicides between the years of 1972-1982. There findings firmly

support the conclusion that gun control is beneficial. According to

Sproule and Kennett, gun control “may be influencing some suspects to

kill by other methods, but it is less likely for these suspects to

kill multiple victims”. From the study conducted by Sproule and

Kennett the rate of violent crimes was five times greater in the U.S

than Canada, and “almost double the rate of firearm use in American

than Canadian homicides” (32-33). In short, the use of firearms “in

Canadian homicides has declined since the legislative changes in gun

control in 1977″.

As mentioned in lectures, Canadian cities have been

traditionally safer, and less vulnerable to ‘Crime Waves’ than our

American neighbours due to our extensive police force and gun control

laws . A factor to be considered, though, is our national heritage

or culture which holds traditions of passiveness and peace unlike the

American Frontier heritage. From our textbook, Why Nothing Works,

Marvin Harris points out that the “American Constitution guarantees

citizens the right to bear arms, and this has made it possible for

U.S. criminals to obtain firearms more readily than their counterparts

in countries like Japan…”. Marvin Harris indicates that “the high

rate of homicide in the United States undoubtedly reflects, to some

extent, the estimated 50 million handguns and rifles legally and

illegally owned by the American people” (122). As demonstrated in the

film: Cops, Guns, and Drugs, the problem with controlling urban

violence in the United States is that it is out of proportion in

contrast to the available police force.

In his book, The Saturday Night Special, Robert Sherrill

explains the cheap, usually illegal, easily concealed handgun that

plays a part in so many crimes in the United States. He reviews the

role of guns in American life-from the shoot-outs of the Old West to

the street violence of today. According to Sherrill, “most murders

occur in shabby neighbourhoods; of the 690 murders in Detroit in 1971,

for example, 575 occurred in the black slums mostly by handguns”. As a

Detroit sociologist added to this alarming figure: “Living in a

frustrating stress-inducing environment like the United States every

day of your life makes many people walking powder kegs” (38). In

agreement with this statement, Sherrill suggests that the hardest hit

of all American urban centres is the inter-cities of Los Angeles, New

York, Detroit, and Washington. These cities largely consist of visible

minorities who are frustrated with the hand dealt to them, and simply

resort to “drugs, guns, and violence” as a way of life . As discussed

in lecture, and viewed in the film: Cops, Guns, and Drugs, many of the

youth in the underclass who become involved in this way of life, “are

considered to be old if they live past the age of 20″ .

In another paper by Catherine F. Sproule and Deborah J.

Kennett, they compared the incidence of killings by handguns, firearms

other than handguns, and nonshooting methods between the United States

and Canada for the years 1977 to 1983. In their study they found that

“in Canada there were 443 handgun killings per 100,000 people compared

to 4108 in the U.S. over the period of 1977-1983″ . They also noted

that the “American murder rates for handguns are higher than the total

Canadian homicide rate”(249). According to Sproule and Kennett,

“Canada’s favourable situation regarding murder relative to the United

States is to a large measure the result of Canadian gun control, and

Canadians must be vigilant against any erosion of our gun control

provisions” (250).

B) Comparison:

Theabove are based on research done by experts

and scholars in the field of gun control and violence. Examining the

above materials can identify similarities and differences found in the

various cited sources, such arguments for and against gun control

policy in North America. It is clearly evident to see that opponents

of strict gun control will have similar arguments. Firstly, they are

usually defending each other against their opponents of the issue, and

they see the benefits as far more greater than the setbacks. The

introduction of the 1977 legislation by the Canadian government

strongly suggests that the country will benefit by having a safer

society, and reduction in crime. According to Robert J. Mundt, a

benefit reaped by this legislation has been a “trend away from the use

of firearms in robberies has been noticeable ever since the passage of

the gun control provisions of the 1977 Bill C-51 (Criminal Law

Amendment Act)”. Mauser mentions that Canadians are “more supportive

of stricter controls on handguns than are Americans…Moreover,

Canadians appear to be less supportive of home owners using firearms

to defend themselves than are Americans” (Mauser:587). This evaluation

by Mauser suggests that Canadians do have confidence in gun control,

and law enforcement in controlling the safety of their well-being.

Similarities can also be cited in the works of Harris and

Sherrill which discuss the effects of having ‘the right to bear arms’

in the United States. According to Marvin Harris, Why Nothing Works,

there “has been a steady increase in the availability of firearms

since 1945, this may account for much of the increase in the homicide

rate” in the United States. Harris also suggests that America has

“developed a unique permanent racial underclass” which provide

conditions for both the motive and opportunity for violent criminal

behaviour (123). In Sherrill’s book, The Saturday Night Special , a

major topic of concern is the status structure of the street gang in

which “success in defense of the turf brings deference and

reputation…Here the successful exercise of violence is a road to

achievement”. As Sherrill mentions, this violence is exercised by the

means of a gun that can be easily obtained in the United States due to

the easy accessibility of guns.

There are also some worthwhile differences found in the

literature cited above. For one, Sproule and Kennett , indicate that

gun ownership in the United States is “inversely related to

individuals lack of confidence in collective institutions to protect

their security of person and property…”. Robert Sherrill believes

that the vast majority of people who own guns , “simply own them

because it is a part of their American heritage, and the constitution

gives them ‘the right to bear arms’”(1973:225). He suggests that

Americans choose to practice their civil liberties to its entirety.

Other notable differences in the literature is Mauser’s view

for the differences in the gun-control legislation between the two

countries. Mauser states that the cause for this is “the differences

in political elites and institutions rather than in public opinion”

(1990:587). Due to Canada’s political structure, it is a lot easier to

make and approve laws in comparison with the United States Congress

structure. Part III: Thesis Statement After researching all the data

collected from the library and the use of course-related materials, I

have formulated my own theory on the social impact of gun control and

violence in North America. Going back to the introduction, I have

asked the reader two questions Issue Of Gun Control And Violence Essay1) Is it our right to bear arms as

North Americans? Or is it a privilege?, and (2) What are the benefits

of having strict gun control laws? It appears to me that much of the

literature cited above looks at gun control as being a feasible

alternative in reducing homicides and armed robbery. From the authors

cited above, there findings undermine the apparent claim of gun

control opponents in their slogan “people kill, guns don’t”. The

introduction of gun control in Canada significantly shows that

Canadian gun control, especially the provisions pertaining to

handguns, does have the beneficial effect of reducing violent crime,

and saving lives.

Part IV: Analysis And Conclusions

When looking at the 1977 Canadian Legislation of gun control,

it is easy to see that there is some bias and assumptions present. For

one, it assumes that left to its own devices the legislation will make

it virtually impossible for a criminal to obtain a handgun. Secondly,

there is an assumption that if a person doesn’t have a criminal record

(it doesn’t neccessarily mean that they are law-abiding) then they are

eligible to obtain a firearm with an FAC (firearms Acquisition

Certificate). With the implementation of Bill C-51, a `Black Market’

for illegal handguns has emerged from the United States into Canada,

making it extremely easy for the professional criminal to obtain a


It can be agreed that since the implementation of Bill C-51 in

1977, Canada has remained relatively safe in incidents involving

firearms in comparison to the United States. The assumption of many

Americans, is that having the right to bear arms increases their

security is open to dispute. It is just as reasonable to assume that

restricting the `right to bear arms’ will increase the safety and

security of a society. In accordance with many sociologists beliefs,

is that Canada historically hasn’t experienced the problems of crime,

that the United States has, because of it’s central police force.

In addition, Sproule and Kennett view the significant effect

of gun control is the method of killing. Although “gun control may be

influencing some suspects to kill by other methods, it is less likely

for these suspects to kill multiple victims”. As witnessed by the

American media, mass murder in public is much more a common occurrence

in the U.S. than Canada. It is safe to say that gun control has saved

the lives of potential innocent victims of crime.

Furthermore, as was mentioned in class discussion and

lectures, the strength or influences of the mass media to glorify

violence has had detrimental effects on North American society. In

some ways, the act of violence has been desensitised and glorified

rather than being displayed as an unacceptable form of behaviour. This

portrayal by the media, has made handguns and other firearms seem

fashionable in the eyes of our youth and general population in North

America. This unquestionably places our law enforcement agencies at a

considerable disadvantage, simply because it erodes the confidence and

trust displayed in them by the general public.

Presently, Canada does have the advantage of gun control

unlike the U.S. situation. We are now living in an environment that

has seen dramatic increase in violent crime, over a short period of

time. Whether the United States adopts a gun control policy similar to

Canada’s, remains to be seen. As for Canadians, we must maintain

confidence in the police and justice system to protect our collective

security as an important means by which to deter gun acquisition.