Ban on assault weapons would not provide cure

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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.

Al Muir


Geographic location: Canada, Newtown, Montreal United States

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Recent comments

  • Joe
    January 08, 2013 - 21:15

    Some users are not remaining courteous and they are posting insulting, discriminatory content. The News should delete them immediately. However Mr. Muir has raised some excellent points and explanations which are necessary, now, instead of emotional trite. In Canada, "There were 190 homicides committed with a firearm in 2006."(2) In 2004 "There are between 9,000 and 24,000 deaths in Canadian hospitals annually due to preventable medical error." (a) "Every year, more people die as a result of preventable medical errors than from motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer and AIDS combined."(b) "The Conference Board of Canada estimates national costs from medical errors in range of $840M annually."(c) In 2006, in the United States, the annual firearm homicides total was 10,225.(4) In the U.S., in 2004, there were 98,000 preventable deaths from medical errors annually. (Patient Safety in American Hospitals, Health Grades 2004) Medical misadventure, in 2004, was the 6th leading cause of death in the US. (Patient Safety in American Hospitals, Health Grades 2004) The costs of Medical misadventure in the U.S. in 2004: $17 to $29 billion per year (Institute of Medicine report).(3) This illustrates the slaughter by the medical industry upon society in both countries and is why medical malpractice insurance for physicians etc. to legallypractice medicine is so very expensive. In contrast, liability insurance for members of the firearms community to responsibly use their fireams is very reasonably priced. Insurance actuaries, people who calculate risk and insurance premiums, know where danger and risks lie and charge their premiums accordingly to make a profit for their company. "Doctoring", actuaries know, is very dangerous.. Now to the Ban on "Assault" weapons. "The National Academy of Sciences issued a 328-page report based on 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, a survey of 80 different gun-control laws and some of its own independent study. In short, the panel could find no link between restrictions on gun ownership and lower rates of crime, firearms violence or even accidents with guns. The panel was established during the Clinton administration and all but one of its members were known to favor gun control." see report (5) '"The Justice Department's interviews also showed so-called "assault weapons" are not a major cause of gun violence. Only about 8 percent of the inmates used one of the models covered in the now-expired assault weapons ban, signed into law by the Clinton administration in 1994."' sources: 1. a. 3)Baker and Norton (2004) CMAJ, 170(11):1678-86. b. 2)Kohn, Corrigan and Donaldson (editors) (2000) To Err Is Human:Building a Safer Health System c. The Conference Board of Canada estimates national costs from medical errors in range of $840M annually 2. 3. 4. 5.

  • Military Mom
    January 08, 2013 - 11:05

    I agree Watchdog. Obsession with weapons, in my opinion, is the sign of a coward.

  • NRA Kills
    January 07, 2013 - 20:00

    Gun apologists cling to insane concept for their own childish selfish desires. IF Mr. Muir loves guns of the variety that are available in the USA then move there. When you move there you can then start paying directly for your health care. Polling in the USA post Newtown shows the only demographic in support of very liberal gun laws are Old White Men who are a rapidly dying demographic. The NRA plays into a White Male Victimization fear in America. Hispanics, Blacks,Women and youth college educated people rejects by vast majorities the NRA talking points which are Blame everyone but themselves. The NRA infomerical was an attempt to spread fear in the population for one purpose. Serve the NRA 's masters in the Gun Industry. Wayne LaPierre blaming Video games was incredible considering Gun Makers it has been reported PAY for product placement of their weapons in EA sports games. Talk about calling the kettle black. Mr Muir comparing the Montreal Massacre of 1989 to Newtown 2012 goes to show how out of touch you are with reality. It is indeed because of gun control in Canada that we have not had a Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Multiple killings at multiplework places including Fort Hood Texas , the largest military base in the world with plenty of "Goodguy" gun owners who could not stop a terrorist from killing 13 and wounding 29 . Americans via NRA BS allow 10000 gun homicides annually. 50 to 70 law enforcement officers killed by guns annually, 100 gun idiots killing themselves cleaning their weapons each year, about 1000 children dying annually of accidental firearm discharges annually, 100,000 woundings of people by firearms annually, More Americans die of gun homicides in America in a president term of four years then America's recent bloodiest war Vietnam. More gun death in a nation claiming to be a beacon of freedom then happened in 10 years of a bloody guerrilla war in south east asia.

    • Stavros
      January 10, 2013 - 17:04

      PIck up a pack of cigarettes and read the label...510 deaths/yr are murder, while 40,000 are from tobacco..... I think people want to feel safe in their homes, and know that you can't count on the police. If your sleeping and you hear someone in your house and call 911, don't you think the guy walking down your hall is gonna get to you first? IF the criminal has a semi-auto handgun/ auto assault rifle (because criminals dont care about laws remember) and you have a bolt action rifle or nothing to protect yourself (because you thought it would change the world by getting rid of guns) who do you think is gonna walk away? I feel bad for you because You must be one of those people that think the government is taking care of us and the police are protecting you. call 911 and hang up and see how long it takes them to get there. In my opinion i think the government is worried about a revolution because everyone i know is frustrated about how they are running this place we call a free country.

  • frank
    January 07, 2013 - 18:42

    Mr.Muir seems to be totally obsessed with guns and gun laws. In all his opinions he is essentially ignorant as to the reality of the circumstances.His mind and his thinking works only in one direction.He would have made the perfect person for Hitler's blackshirts-Gestapo!

  • Nongunowner
    January 05, 2013 - 10:42

    Thank you Al for enlightening us with some facts to go along with the sensationalism.

  • Sparky
    January 05, 2013 - 08:44

    I would like to elaborate on a few points. First, the AR-15 is a RESTRICTED weapon in Canada, meaning it is held in the same regard as handguns. You need a restricted firearms permit, you need a permit to transport it and it is very regulated. More importantly it is illegal in Canada to have a 30 round rifle magazine for it. A Canadian AR-15 owner is limited to a 5 round capacity. So the AR-15 is not legal for most firearm owners in Canada and the 30 round magazines (such as used in the recent tragedy) are not legal at all. And that's the way I like it. There is nothing stopping me from getting the required permits, joining a gun club and doing some recreational shooting at a range, but I can not have 30 round magazines, or take it anywhere I want etc.

  • watchdog
    January 05, 2013 - 07:28

    People who have such an obsession with weapons of fear of not having them to me seem to have some underlying cause for me to suspect that they may have some potential to harm others.