Guns are not part of my world, and I hope to keep it that way, but I have been wondering lately about our controls on guns in Canada, so I decided to take a look.
As a kid growing up in the country, I had a .22 rifle, with which I shot my share of groundhogs and foxes, both seen to be pests that caused trouble around the family farm. I have no problem with farmers and other rural residents owning a long gun, provided they store it safely, because there are situations where it is the only realistic solution.
I was never a hunter, although I have friends and relatives who enjoy hunting. I can accept that, although I can't say I completely understand it.
I also have a good friend who is a target shooter, and he owns a handgun for that purpose. While I trust my friend to store his target pistol securely, I am also aware that many such guns find their way into the wrong hands due to break-ins and so on. We've agreed to disagree on the need for people to own handguns for pleasure.
Handguns and automatic weapons may not be used legally for hunting in Canada. Their purpose is to kill people, so my own belief is that their ownership should be restricted to those who are authorized to kill people, when the situation warrants --- police officers, armoured truck guards, the Prime Minister's bodyguards, and the like.
Canada has three classifications for firearms --- prohibited, restricted, and unrestricted.
Fully automatic weapons are prohibited, except those registered before 1978. Also prohibited are handguns with a barrel length of 105 mm (4 in.) or less and those that
discharge .25 or .32 calibre ammunition, except for a few specific guns
used in International Shooting Union competitions.
Handguns of other sizes and calibres are not prohibited, but are restricted, meaning that anyone with the appropriate licence and a "valid purpose" (e.g. target shooting, gun collecting) can acquire them. Handgun owners can convey their unloaded weapons to ranges, etc. if they have an Authorization to Transport. These can be issued for long periods.
While more difficult to arrange, the carrying of a holstered or concealed firearm in a public place is allowed, subject to a valid permit. For example, an RCMP Authorization to Carry may be obtained for protection during employment that involves handling of valuable goods or dangerous wildlife.
Similarly restricted are semi-automatics such as the military-styled Norinco AR-15 and 97NSR. Semi-automatic, small calibre variants of the Bushmaster version of the AR-15, used by Newtown gunman Adam Lanza, are legal and continue to be registered as restricted long guns in Canada. However, such (centre-fire) rifles are limited to a five round magazine, dialling down the fun for Rambo-wannabes.
Other rifles and shotguns are unrestricted, and may be owned by anyone possessing the correct licence. As of February 15, 2012, long guns need not be registered anywhere except in Quebec.
These are the just the basics of gun regulation in Canada. Federal, provincial, and municipal governments may be involved in any specific location.
There are many more guns in Canadian households than I expected. It is estimated that civilians own 9,950,000 guns, although accurate figures are unavailable. This ranks our rate of gun ownership (23.8 per 100 people) as 13th in the world.
About 5.5% of Canadians are licensed firearm owners which, if I have the math right, means that on average they each own about four guns.
I don't worry too much about the folks who are licensed, although there are about 600 firearm suicides per year. If they had not had guns handy, would all of those people still have killed themselves? I doubt it.
I do worry about the young gangbangers in the big cities, unlicenced and carrying prohibited and restricted weapons, who are turning some neighbourhoods into killing zones and endangering innocent bystanders, including children.
Their firearms, mostly handguns, are stolen or imported illegally from south of the border.
The Toronto police report 210 shootings in 2012, mostly by males 15-29.
So far, our society has been spared the extreme gun culture that plagues the U.S., but there are those who would like to see us further relax our firearm regulations. As Americans are waking up to the need for gun control, let's hope Canadians don't go to sleep.
Much of my information was sourced from GunPolicy.org and the RCMP.