Now that we are only a few days away from Canada’s 150th birthday, there seems to be a lot of reflection on what gives Canada her identity. Of course we hear the usual tropes of hockey, politeness and socialized medicine. But there is another thing that often comes out of smug leftists looking to differentiate Canada from the United States.

Gun control.

Stats are trotted out claiming to show that Canada is much safer because we have heavily restricted the ability of law-abiding hunters and sport shooters to buy a firearm.

While there are significantly more firearms-related deaths south of the border, the fact of the matter is that this has far more to do with socio-economic factors, like the prevalence of gangs, than it does with the right of a law-abiding citizen to purchase a firearm to protect his or her property.

Let’s look at the Canadian experience and its lessons:  

According to Statistics Canada, 94% of firearms used in crimes were smuggled into Canada illegally. According to a study from Simon Fraser University, 93% of those convicted of homicide involving a firearm have never had a gun license.

The fact is that when a politician, university professor or armchair policy analyst says the answer to a particular tragedy is more gun control, they are simply advancing a political agenda.

Take the example of the individual in New Brunswick who murdered three RCMP members in cold blood. He had a firearms license when he bought the guns used to murder the police officers. He wasn’t captured by any of the screening mechanisms. And when he decided to murder those three Mounties, he removed the pin from his magazines so they could illegally hold more bullets.

Gun control failed.

Canada’s firearms laws are arbitrary. On your own property, you can fire a .50 calibre rifle, similar to the one recently used by a Joint Task Force 2 sniper in Iraq to break the world record for longest recorded kill shot. But you cannot use a .22 calibre handgun. Magazines are required to be limited to five rounds for most rifles and 10 rounds for most handguns. But the only difference between legal and illegal magazines is a small rivet that could easily be removed with a hammer and punch. 

Conservatives must be principled when dealing with issues around firearms.  We must look at facts, not emotions. Reducing violent crime is critical. But the way to do that is to crack down on the repeat offenders who make up the vast majority of the criminal class in Canada.  Piling more and more red tape on gun owners won’t make anyone safer.

We need to move toward a simplified classification system for firearms.  That means using empirical standards, rather than meaningless cosmetic features, to determine what firearms are prohibited and which are non-restricted.  We must get rid of do-nothing rules that make people who have never shot a gun feel better.  And perhaps most importantly, it means ending the presumption that owning a gun is somehow worthy of suspicion from law enforcement.

While Canada does not have Constitutional protection of firearms rights like our neighbours to the south, we do have a long and proud history of hunting and sport shooting that must be maintained well into the future.  Law-abiding gun owners should be left to enjoy their hobby, much like generations of Canadians have done for more than 150 years.