To the editor,
Laws based on emotion, without knowledge or foresight, regardless of their perceived need, never make good laws nor receive the consent and compliance of the people they are targeted at, ultimately resulting in their failure. Canada's Firearms Act has been a study in this truth. Dec. 27’s headline story in The News underlines how little we have learned from our own failed experiment.
Jon Fisher asks "can any American defend the legality of these weapons with a clear conscience?" The answer is they can and they do. Mr. Fisher, like many others, advocates the notion of collective responsibility. American gun owners will no more accept responsibility for unspeakable horror in Newtown than Canadian gun owners do for an atrocity in Montreal. If the implement used in either case was a knife or vehicle “collective responsibility" would not even be a remote issue. Given that the vast majority of us own both a knife and a vehicle there is nothing to vilify but the culprit.
If we are to accept the paternalistic position that we in our superiority can dictate what American law should be we should at least get our facts straight before doing so.
"Assault weapon" traditionally was a term denoting a firearm that is magazine-fed and capable of fully automatic fire. For mostly political reasons the term has been converted to a semi-automatic firearm with features that do not change how the firearm functions but make it guilty of being cosmetically military in appearance. The American's previously had a 10-year ban on these new age "assault weapons." It is important to note that not all varieties of semi-automatic firearms met the criteria of "assault weapon" in their previous law. Under that law only the sale of these deemed assault weapons was banned, not the tens of millions of them already in civilian hands. It is highly unlikely that that any future American "assault weapon" ban will make all semi-automatic firearms illegal. Attempting to confiscate the already existing stocks in civilian hands would be a veritable nightmare. Americans, unlike Canadians, have a constitutional right to property and a willingness to guard that right. Mr. Ferguson's opinion that semi-automatic firearms need to be banned, in the foreseeable future, is little more than a pipe dream. Given that Mr. Ferguson is a firearms dealer one would think that he would be cognizant of some of these facts. In fact the Bushmaster AR-15 reportedly used in Newtown is a legal firearm here in Canada. Given these factors alone it is a mistake for Mr. Ferguson to suggest the emulation of Canada's current firearms laws in the United States would solve firearm crime. Mr. Ferguson also seems to be unaware that mental assessment and criminal checks are already existing American requirements. Mr. Ferguson's apparent lack of knowledge of both Canadian and American firearms laws might be forgiven given the extremely complicated nature of our gun laws. The reality is there are very few police, lawyers or judges who have more than a superficial knowledge of their entire content.
While the emotion-provoking, catch-all "assault weapon" is currently on the minds of many Americans, mental health is also getting a little attention. Americans, being more preoccupied with the concept of freedom than Canadians have historically been, need to guard against a witch hunt of the mentally ill. The "collective responsibility" of American gun owners leaves them open to the creative use of "mentally unstable" that will follow as surely as night follows day.
While the primary focus has been on the how, rather than the why, a few relevant points have been raised as to why. The media does thrive on and nurse infamy. If you make them bleed you lead. The slow death of religion in western society makes the long-standing "ban" on murder less of a factor for some. The severe decay of the family cannot be looked on as a step forward. There are a number of possible contributing factors in these instances. Reducing a complex issue to a “ban” cure-all may work politically but the results will fall far short of stated outcomes.