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“A Useful Point Of Comparison”: With This Statistic, Canada Demonstrates What A Difference Gun Control Can Make

No mainstream American politician would ever propose to get rid of all guns. But what might happen if we seriously approached the issues of gun safety, licensing, and registration?

As a country that allows private gun ownership and also has a robust hunting culture, Canada offers a useful point of comparison with the United States. However, the two countries are quite different in terms of their gun control laws, and, as it happens, their gun murder rates: The United States has a whopping 89 firearms per 100 residents, the number-one rank in the world, while Canada’s guns are at 31 firearms per 100 people, putting it in the 13th place globally. The country also has a comprehensive system of gun licensing — with citizens required to take a safety course if they want to own and operate a gun, which is, after all, a dangerous piece of machinery.

Under Canada’s laws, handguns have been registered since 1934. Other changes in gun policy have occurred over the decades, including the creation in the 1970s of the Firearms Acquisition License, now known as a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL), which is a permit needed in order to purchase a gun. And licenses to carry guns in Canada are quite rare.

A centralized system of issuing gun licenses began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as part of a wave of gun control legislation brought forward by both the Conservative and Liberal parties. When the latter party came into office in 1993, much of the implementation became their task — and the new registration of long guns became a wedge issue in rural areas, particularly in western Canada where the Conservative Party would grow to dominate.

In 2012, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party repealed the long gun registry and destroyed the records that had been amassed from it — but there are still records on “restricted” and “prohibited” guns, generally various forms of handguns and/or automatic weapons. (As the Royal Canadian Mounted Police makes very clear, the long gun registry repeal “does not change the requirement for all individuals to hold a licensee in order to possess a firearm.”) And not even the Conservatives would propose getting rid of the the handgun registry, safety courses, or gun licenses as they now exist.

So what difference, if any, might be gleaned from Canada’s focus on gun safety and efforts to keep weapons out of the wrong hands?

To start with a baseline, the United States has a population roughly nine times that of Canada, according to the most up-to-date figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and its northern counterpart, Statistics Canada.

In Canada in 2013, the most recent year for which numbers have been posted by Statistics Canada, there were a total of 505 homicides — which would be proportional to about 4,534 homicides in the United States.

But in the United States, according to the FBI, there were 12,253 homicides in 2013 — a factor of 2.9 times the Canadian equivalent.

Now let’s dig in a little further and look at the impact that gun violence might be having on these numbers. In the U.S. figures, 8,454 of these homicides — 69 percent — were committed with firearms, compared to only 26 percent in Canada — 131, or a U.S. equivalent of 1,179, which is less than 1/7th of America’s gun killings.

Of the non-gun killings — with various methods including stabbings, beatings, fire, poisoning, and so on — here the numbers are obviously much closer. The United States had 3,799 in 2013, while Canada had 374 — which would correspond to 3,366 in the United States, giving the U.S. a figure only 13 percent greater than Canada’s.

Or to put it more simply: Nearly the entire difference in the homicide numbers between the United States and Canada comes from guns.

But to quote the late, great American comedian Bill Hicks: “But there’s no connection — and you’d be a fool and a communist to make one — there’s no connection between having a gun and shooting someone with it, and not having a gun and not shooting someone.”


By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, October 7, 2015

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Canada, Gun Control, United States | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“I’ll See Your Chainsaw And Raise You A Semi Automatic”: GOP Candidates Are Finding It Difficult To Capture The Spotlight

Two weeks ago, Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) presidential campaign, eager to generate some interest in its message, released an unfortunate video. The 51-second clip showed Paul, looking and sounding a bit like a used-car salesman, setting fire to large stacks of paper, putting the paper through a wood-chipper, and literally using the chainsaw.

It was supposed to have something to do with federal tax policy.

That, of course, set a fairly high bar for presidential candidates doing silly things to generate attention for themselves. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), do you have a rebuttal?

“There are few things I enjoy more than on weekends cooking breakfast with the family,” Cruz opens the video. Raw bacon and aluminum foil are then wrapped around the barrel of a machine gun at a firing range.

“Of course in Texas, we cook bacon a little differently than most folks,” Cruz says.

The far-right senator appears to have partnered with IJReivew, a conservative site, for the video called, “Making Machine-Gun Bacon with Ted Cruz.” The minute-long clip is online here.

The video proceeds roughly as one might expect: the raw bacon “cooks” as Cruz fires the gun. When he’s done with target practice, the senator removes the foil, takes a bite with a fork, and laughs. “Mmm, machine-gun bacon,” he says.

For the record, I’m not entirely sure if this actually is a “machine gun.” More knowledgeable sources can (and should) check me on this, but I was under the impression that machine guns are fully automatic, firing bullets quickly. The far-right senator appears to be firing one bullet with each pull of the trigger. It seems like a relevant detail – if Cruz doesn’t know what a machine gun is, this video may prove to be more embarrassing than intended.

Regardless, whether or not this video is better than Cruz’s tryout for “The Simpsons” is a matter of taste.

As for the larger context, this is apparently what it means to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015.

In a massive field of 17 candidates, which is currently led by a former reality-show host who has never sought or held public office, GOP candidates are finding it increasingly difficult to capture the spotlight. Looking “presidential” is nice, but it’s also evidently dull.

And so we’ve reached the curious combination of candidates, chainsaws, and raw meat on gun barrels.

What’s more, it’s only early August. What the YouTube clips will look like in, say, November, is anybody’s guess.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 3, 2015

August 4, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Uzi Accident Sparks Debate About Children And Guns”: Why Would A Parent Or A State Allow A Child To Handle Automatic Weapons?

It was the kind of story that was hard to miss yesterday. A 9-year-old girl, on vacation with her family, was given an Uzi to fire at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Ariz. When the child couldn’t control the submachine gun’s recoil, she accidentally killed her instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca.

It’s generating some overdue conversation.

In the aftermath of the tragic death of a gun-range instructor killed by a 9-year-old girl who wasn’t able to control an Uzi 9mm submachine gun, many are raising questions about whether it is safe – or even legal – for young children to handle powerful firearms.

Arizona, where the incident happened on Monday, is one of 21 states that has no laws restricting the access of guns to minors under 18, as long as there is adult supervision.

Twenty-nine states have child access prevention laws. Fourteen prohibit someone from “intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly providing some or all firearms to children,” according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The Arizona Republic’s E.J. Montini ran a compelling piece with a notable headline: “Why do we allow a child to handle an Uzi?”

The columnist wrote, “Arizona law allows a minor to possess a weapon if accompanied by a parent, guardian or an instructor. But this type of weapon? It’s time we asked ourselves: Why would a shooting range allow a kid to handle an automatic weapon? Why would a parent? And, most importantly, why would a state?”

A New York Times report added that these ranges have become popular tourist attractions. People can “fire the weapons of their dreams: automatic machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers. A hamburger lunch is included; a helicopter tour of the nearby Grand Canyon is optional.”

And while the public comes to terms with the propriety of these activities, we might also want to ask a related question: who’s in charge of the NRA’s social-media operation?

Yesterday afternoon, with much of the country stunned by the images out of Arizona, an official NRA twitter feed published a link to “7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at the Shooting Range.” This isn’t a joke. In fact, I took a screen grab of the message.

NRA Women


It’s worth noting that the gun group eventually unpublished the tweet, but not before many wondered aloud what in the world the NRA could have been thinking.

MSNBC’s Nick Ramsey added yesterday, “ ‘Think before tweeting’ is advice everyone on social media can use, but particularly those behind the Twitter handle @NRAWomen.”

Truer words were never spoken.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 28, 2014

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Grading John Paul Stevens’ Work”: When Rewriting The Second Amendment, Be As Specific As Possible

As the gun nuts will surely point out, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens doesn’t know how to distinguish automatic from semi-automatic firearms. I’ve never understood why this distinction is so important to gun nuts. As a legal matter, obviously it is important to know the difference. But the reason that non-gun enthusiasts make this mistake so often is because the semi-automatic weapons are so incredibly lethal that the distinction doesn’t make any practical difference to them. Does anyone think Adam Lanza’s semi-automatic weapon was inadequate to the job of killing 20 kids and 6 teachers in a couple of minutes?

It’s really the ease and quickness that killers like Lanza and James Eagan Jones Holmes (the Aurora, Colorado shooter) can mow down large groups of people that is the concern.

In any case, Stevens’ proposed amendment to the Second Amendment is sloppy. It would make it impossible for a National Guard officer to disarm an insubordinate underling.

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. As so amended, it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people   to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

As we know, the wording of these things can get twisted over time. So, if you want to rewrite the Second Amendment you should be as specific as possible. I’d go with:

A well regulated Militia is no longer necessary to the security of a free State. We now call those things the Army Reserve, the Navy Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, the Air Force Reserve, the Coast Guard Reserve, the Army National Guard of the United States, and the Air National Guard of the United States. If you serve in one of those Organizations, your weapon will be provided for you.

See, isn’t that better?


By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 13, 2014




April 14, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, John Paul Stevens, Second Amendment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lives In The Balance”: Smoking Guns, The Deafening Silence Of The Assault Weapons Makers

When I hear about another military-style assault-weapon tragedy, I can’t help thinking about cigarettes.

It’s faded a bit into history now, but it was roughly 20 years ago that the heads of seven major tobacco companies were called before Congress to testify in hearings about regulating their products.

History was made when, one by one, they testified under oath that they, personally, did not believe nicotine is addictive – even though their scientists had generated box cars of data showing that creating addiction was precisely the point. One by one, the CEOs willfully deceived Congress in a roll call of commercial infamy: Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, U.S. Tobacco, Lorillard, Liggett, Brown and Williamson, American Tobacco.

By the time the hearings were over, the CEOs were being called “The Seven Dwarfs.”

So, from cigarettes to guns: Where is that public debate with the makers of hollow point bullets, high capacity magazines, and weapons designed to harm and kill human beings as quickly as possible?

(By the way, if you want to wade into these waters, keep your facts straight. A fully automatic weapon fires bullets as long as you hold down the trigger. They’re not illegal, but they are highly regulated.  A semiautomatic weapon fires as fast as you can pull the trigger. You can get one at Walmart. There is no technical definition of assault weapon, but it generally refers to both automatic and semiautomatic rifles.  In fact, the very complexity of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban riddled it with so many exceptions that it proved largely ineffective.)

I’ve posed that question of the cigarette maker-gun maker connection in various forums, and I get some interesting, angry, and often logic- twisting responses.

Among my favorites:

– You can’t compare cigarettes and assault weapons. Cigarettes harm and kill a lot more people. Accountability for these two product-related deaths tolls, then, is a matter of degree.

– Why not regulate blunt instruments? More people are killed by hammers each year than by guns – including assault weapons. The fact is: if you torture the data long enough you can make it confess to anything.  And there is no doubt that there is a cottage industry on both sides in making statistics fit arguments.

But missing in those arguments: of all the implements used to kill people — knives, fists or a handy vase – only guns are created to do exactly that, and only assault weapons are manufactured expressly to do that as quickly as possible. Seriously – could Adam Lanza have dispatched 26 innocent souls in Newtown in five minutes with anything but an assault weapon?

And of course, there is the second amendment. I won’t try to imagine what was in the minds of the Founding Fathers. But I’m going to guess their thinking did not include high-capacity magazines (the ones Lanza carried held 30 bullets each) that serve up a new bullet as soon as the previous one is fired, and bullets designed to explode inside your body.

Still, as we debate statistics and parse definitions, the public is largely unaware of the companies that are making the weapons that are the subject of the debate. And that is exactly as intended.

Who can come up with the names of the top makers of semi-automatic weapons: like Bushmaster, Sig Sauer, Colt, Smith & Wesson, ArmaLite, DPMS and others?

The reason most people can’t name these companies is because of a very slick sleight of hand – executed flawlessly by NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, the gleefully belligerent face of the NRA who expertly draws attention away from the industry he represents.

LaPierre is very good at a job he is paid a lot of money to do. As long as we’re talking about his outrageous bluster, we’re not talking about the people who make a lot of money from the products he wants to keep on shelves of the local sporting goods store and laid out at gun shows.

His ability to do that is increasingly important to the industry. As hunting declines, so do rifle sales – even with periodic spikes driven by fears of gun restrictions. Long term, how do you replace that? A report from the Violence Policy Center argues that selling military-style assault rifles – re-branded as “modern sporting rifles” – to civilians has been a key part of the industry’s marketing strategy since the 1980s. Women, say gun control advocates and the industry alike, are a high marketing priority. The gun makers insist it’s for their protection. The lethal AR-15 (used in both the Aurora and Newtown killings) comes in pink. (Available now at Gun

As the debate over assault weapons rages on, the deafening silence of the gun makers reminds me of  a lyric in the Jackson Brown song – “Lives in the Balance.” “I want to know who the men in the shadows are. I want to hear somebody asking them why.”

Those who have been killed and injured by weapons made expressly for that purpose deserve no less.


By: Peggy Drexler, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University; Time Magazine, January 17, 2014

January 18, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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