Guns in Canada

Posted: December 18, 2011 in politics

A friend of mine just finished a firearms acquisition course for non-restricted and restricted firearms.  Non-restricted are your basic hunting rifles and shotguns, while restricted are things like handguns.  As he related his experience to me, a few notable points emerged.

One thing that amazed me was the cost.  Assuming that it is a handgun that is your goal, the costs break down as follows.  The two courses, because you probably would take both, cost a total of $275.  Submitting the paperwork and getting your actual license is another $80.  To own a handgun legally, you must belong to a gun club.  It is the only way that you can actually shoot it, and that you can obtain the necessary Authorization To Transport certificate in order to actually carry it from any place to any other place.  That gun club membership will likely be about a $350 initial fee along with a $400 annual fee.  That comes to about $1 100, before even purchasing the gun.  As an average handgun is around $400, that brings the total to $1 500.  Now you have to add the cost of a proper storage facility which could be a locked Pelican case (bolted to the floor) or a proper gun case or safe.  The expense is considerable, as is the penalty for not doing things strictly by the rules.  It would be beyond the budgets of a lot of people, specifically those with limited economic resources, and yet that’s where much of the gun crime takes place.  I don’t know if there is a way around it, because certainly you don’t want to make gun ownership too easy, but the setup seems to encourage people to circumvent the rules because of the expense.  A lot of people will look at the whole deal and say, “Hey, it’s a lot easier to take the chance and buy a gun from that high school student behind the bleachers.”  It’s a bit of a delema.

The second story he told me was a little more disturbing.  In his class of about 20 people there was one individual who stood out because he seemed to be incompetent when he was handling the guns, but also was very contentious, aggressive and socially awkward.  At one point in the class he actually tried to pick a fight with one of the other students.  The majority of the class, I heard, was very uncomfortable with him and the instructors would often shake their heads and roll their eyes after dealing with him.  Most felt that he probably would not pass the requisite tests, but he did.  So there was a clear case of an individual that many people felt should not he handed the responsibility to carry a firearm, and he was at least awarded a license to go and buy a rifle once his paperwork cleared in a few months.  (My friend couldn’t say whether he passed the handgun test, as he didn’t hang around to find out, but the handgun test was apparently easier than the non-restricted test.)  This is scary.  We trust the training and testing procedure to weed out unfavorable candidates.  The fact that it could not do so in this situation is a major failing of the system.

Another questionable artifact of the system is that my friend now has both a non-restricted and a restricted license, allowing him to go and purchase a firearm once it is mailed to him.  The training involved handing weapons and concentrated on weapon safety.  He wanted to make it very clear that he felt that both the instructors and the training was very well done and comprehensive.   But at no time did he ever shoot a gun.  He will be able to buy a firearm without ever having shot a gun, which doesn’t make sense to me.

I definitely think that there should be a more comprehensive and perhaps a more discriminating system in place before permission is given for firearms acquisition.  Unlike the U.S., possessing a firearm in Canada is a privilege, not a right.  I don’t like guns, but I’m not strongly opposed to them, to their use in hunting or on a firing range.  I also think it is dangerous for guns to be only accessible to the “crazies” who get them illegally.  But our society has a responsibility to insure that the privilege is only given to those who can meet certain standards and that may be something that merits some further attention.

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