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Assault-style Weapon Ban

May 5, 2020

You’ve probably heard about the recent mass shooting incident in Nova Scotia.  It got a great deal of publicity.  It was a frightening event.  People saw it as a threat to them.  There was a public outcry to do something.  The government did do something.  In spite of the fear and the publicity, mass shootings are a relatively rare event.

Individual shootings are much more common.  They usually begin as a dispute between two people.  It ends with one person shooting the other, usually with a hand gun.  People tend to overlook this type of shooting, dismissing it as only criminals killing other criminals.  Indeed, there’s no threat to the general public.  There’s also almost no public outcry to do something.  Even though there’s a larger number of victims, people generally don’t care about individual shootings.

What the government did was to place a ban on assault-style rifles.  These are replicas of military assault rifles, except that they are semi-automatic only.  Fully automatic rifles are already banned.  There’s also a new ban on large calibre rifles and weapons with a high penetrating power.  The government felt compelled to do something, even though there is no good solution to the problem.

Should we have a complete ban on guns?  There’s a range of opinions on this question.  People who want guns banned are mostly living in urban areas and feel threatened by guns.  People who oppose a ban are gun shop owners, hunters, target shooters, and gun collectors.  It’s not possible to reconcile the two groups.  You might wonder about my own attitude to guns.  I’m not a gun owner.  Still, I try to be impartial, and to consider both sides of this issue.

Hand guns are not banned, but they are severely restricted, amounting to almost a ban.  You require a permit to purchase a hand gun, a permit to transport it, and a permit to carry it.  Most of the owners are target shooters.

Canada has the same problem with guns an shootings as does the US.  Only the laws are different between the two countries.

An assault-style gun is only a style of weapon.  They look threatening because they are a replica of a military weapon.  To some extent, it’s an image problem.  In this country, it’s already difficult to get assault-style rifles through illegal channels.  Some mass shootings were done with them, but others were not.  For example, in the 2014 Parliament Hill attack, the shooter used a Winchester lever-action rifle, not an assault rifle.  As well, the police raid photographs show mostly hunting rifles and shotguns, along with a few sawed-off weapons and home-made hand guns.

I wrote before that there was no good solution.  The real problem is criminals with guns.  Of course, people tolerate a certain level of criminality, depending on who is being shot.  We need to prevent guns being available to criminals.  We also need to prevent mass shootings, even if they are not very frequent.

There are some partial solutions to problems with guns.  One is to make firearms more difficult to obtain illegally.  This action may only raise the price, but that result is still acceptable.  Another is to involve the police to a greater extent.  This activity will certainly require funding.  It may also raise the spectre of surveillance.  A careful balance is necessary.


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