By Chris McGarry
July 7, 2008
Ask average Canadians about their views on private gun ownership and you will get a plethora of responses. Most people who I've spoken with do not have a problem per say with responsible individuals owning non-restricted firearms for hunting or farmers using them for predator control. Many Canadians aren't opposed to the legitimate ownership of handguns, provided they're restricted, i.e. registered, licensed. As if the restrictions on handgun use weren't already draconian enough some misguided individuals have stated these "dangerous weapons" should only be legally allowed if stored in a central gun repository.
The way I see it, a firearm is an inanimate though well-crafted object in which a gunsmith took great pride in making. A hunting rifle is no scarier than a .357 Magnum or even a fully automatic assault rifle. The fact that firearms for the most part are all the same but have different purposes is a concept much of the general public just cannot seem to grasp. The three classes of firearms outlined in the Firearms Act are unnecessary and totally useless.
There are non-restricted firearms, mainly long guns and the next class, restricted, which includes all handguns and semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15. The third class is prohibited firearms, ones grandfathered by their owners after the Firearms Act became law in 1995. Firearms covered in the prohibited category include small revolvers and pistols, fully-automatic firearms and machine guns. Apparently the all powerful state deems the general public to be unfit to own these "evil, frightening looking" guns.
And many people would agree. "Oh, nobody needs to own an assault rifle. It has no practical purpose." How many times have we heard that one? Anyway, putting firearms into classes is purely an exercise in bureaucratic futility. Canada, like Great Britain, is seeing an increase in firearm smuggling and a growing black market. Firearms that are illegal or restricted to Canadians are easily available. Think about it. Does a career criminal intent on causing harm really care if his firearm of choice is non-restricted, restricted or prohibited?
Owners of prohibited firearms who fail to renew their gun licenses can, by law, lose the right to ever again possess their legally owned property. Just imagine the outrage that would follow if our increasingly socialistic governments decided to steal certain "classes" of cars from their rightful owners in the name of public safety. The National Firearms Association has drafted the proposed Practical Firearms Control System to hopefully one day replace the Firearms Act. Personally, I believe most gun control laws are just a feel good solution to often complex issues.
Prior to 1977, anyone could purchase what nowadays are classified as non-restricted firearms. No licensing, registration or background checks were required. Permits, waiting periods and background checks sound great in theory but in the end they only restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens. Many people would be horrified at the prospect of a newly released inmate from a correctional centre just walking into a sporting goods store and purchasing a firearm. "This is why gun control is needed" they will argue.
My question is how many times should society punish an individual for a crime they have committed? Truly violent and dangerous persons should be separated from society as they were for centuries. Perhaps we should examine our often soft approach to violent crime in Canada and, if necessary, adopt a tougher stance. But that is another topic for another day.
As for the argument against private citizens owning semi or fully automatic firearms, what dangerous does an inanimate object in the hands of a competent person pose?
As for the practical purposes of owning an AK 47 or even a machine gun, look no further than the tiny European nation of Switzerland. Neutral for the past 900 years, Switzerland requires almost every male between the ages of 18 and 55 to keep an assault rifle and ammunition sealed in their homes and to be ready to mobilize at a moment's notice.
I don't know about other Canadians, but if some foreign country invaded our beautiful nation, I would want something a bit more powerful than a single shot Cooey to defend my home and loved ones with.
In closing, organizing firearms into classes based on how "dangerous" or "scary" they look is only giving people a false sense of security. All guns can be dangerous if not handled properly and need to be treated with respect.
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