For every tragedy involving gun violence there begins a cycle: public fear and disgust; politicians scrambling to appear to “do something” through new and ever more restrictive gun laws; ever more resources are committed to gun control; and then, the mission accomplished, attention shifts. The Queen of Soul dies. A bridge collapses. A royal baby is born. Another tragedy involving gun violence occurs. Rinse and  repeat. Gun laws will not deter criminals from using guns for violent purposes. Legal gun ownership is conflated with gun violence. It is an easy scapegoat; however, the only meaningful answer to “how did this happen?” comes from an understanding of what creates a criminal.

The reality is that guns exist in every society. In countries like Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, gun ownership is particularly threatening because it is a privilege, not a right as in the U.S.A.  In the 1990s Canada created several gun laws, including the controversial long gun registry. What was estimated to be a $2 million project soon turned into $2 billion. The mandatory registration failed to disarm criminals. Restricting legal access to firearms has not reduced gun violence in Canada, Australia or Great Britain.

study of gun laws in these Commonwealth nations concluded that gun control is an expensive failure and does not have a measurable effect on crime. I anticipate comparable results following Bill C-71’s passage…..

While I agree that those with existing suicidal/homicidal ideation should not have a gun, how is this to be to effectively regulated? Bill C-71 misses the mark of its intended target. Gun laws do not address the impulse to commit violence.

At some point gun control reduces the availability of guns to law abiding citizens more than it does for bad actors. In fact, the number of illegally obtained guns has increased in Canada despite steadily increasing restrictions on legal ownership.

So, how do we deter criminals? Mandatory minimum sentences do not work. Reactionary gun laws are popular, but fruitless. We prevent crime by identifying the biological, sociological and psychological underpinnings of criminal behaviour and then addressing that behaviour.

Until we acknowledge this difficult truth, we will continue to bang our collective heads against the wall at each stage of the gun tragedy cycle ineffectually looking solely to the symptoms of violence.

Originally published in the Lawyer’s Daily September 7th, 2018: