Despite the stereotype that Canadians are sorry peace lovers, Canada is quietly one of the most armed countries on the planet. I live in Ontario, and my country consistently ranks in the Top 10 of gun ownership per capita in the world, even though we don’t have the equivalent of the NRA or a Second Amendment.
We also don’t have a chronic problem with mass shootings, although violent crime is on the rise.
What Canada has is a government that responds to mass shootings, both inside and outside its borders. And polls consistently suggest that Canadians of all political stripes are wary about owning guns. In Ontario, which recently re-elected a Conservative premier (the Canadian equivalent of a governor), a investigation conducted last month found that 8 out of 10 people strongly or somewhat supported “banning handguns in the province” wholesale.
In 2020, shortly after the mass shooting that killed 22 people in Nova Scotia, 4 in 5 Canadians supported banning civilian possession of assault-type weapons. This transcended “political and regional divides”, the think tank Angus Reid Institute found. Remarkably, even a slight majority of gun owners, 55%, supported this decision.
It is a very different landscape from what we find in America today. While there is a Canadian consensus on redemptions and prohibitions, the political divide in the United States essentially froze the discussion, as did the system of government.
Bench to research last year shows that Republicans and Democrats are very different when it comes to creating a federal gun sales database, banning assault weapons, banning high-capacity ammunition, to authorize the carrying of concealed weapons, to shorten waiting times for the purchase of weapons and to arm teachers.
The one thing Republicans and Democrats strongly agree on is that the mentally ill should not be able to buy guns, despite lawmakers this week saying they were close to ‘a compromise agreement in the wake of Uvalde.
Part of the difference between the two countries’ response to armed violence is structural.
Like Max Fisher wrote recently for the New York Times, the Canadian parliamentary system gives Prime Minister Justin Trudeau more leverage than President Joe Biden. “If Mr. Trudeau wants to pass a new law, he only has to ask his subordinates in his party and their allies to do so. There is no divided government and less party bargaining and legislative gridlock. »
Fisher goes on to say that “Canada is similar to what the United States would be if it had only one House of Representatives, whose president also oversaw federal agencies and foreign policy.”
Certainly, witnessing the ongoing tragedy of US gun policy has likely moved many Canadians away from any closure on the issue. The social discomfort associated with firearms enabled Canadian lawmakers to act quickly in the wake of a tragedy. Following the 1989 targeting of female university students in Montreal, Canada adopted the firearms lawestablishing rules for the licensing and registration of firearms.
After the mass shooting in Nova Scotia, the country prohibited the AR-15 rifle and some 1,500 other models of assault weapons.
And with the horror of Uvalde fresh in mind, Trudeau introduced legislation paving the way for a redeem program, a nationwide freeze on handgun ownership, and new limits on magazine capacities.
This prompted the Wall Street Journal to quip that Trudeau is acting as if he is running for the US Congress. “He and Democrat Beto O’Rourke could campaign together in Texas,” the Journal’s editorial board said. They are not entirely wrong. Buyouts have questionable effectiveness and the root problem gun violence in Canada — which has been increasing lately — stems from illegal smuggling from the United States.
Yet there is an argument to be made that America should be more like Canada, at least in terms of its responsiveness to atrocities. Trudeau’s decision, according to the New York Times, echoes the New Zealand ban and takeover initiated after the 2019 mosque shootings that claimed the lives of 51 people in Christchurch and it is reminiscent of the one in Australia 1996 gun overhaul following a mass shooting in Port Arthur that killed 35 people.
Using data from the United Nations, German Lopez writes for Vox that America has a firearm homicide rate six times that of Canada as well as “more than seven times that of Sweden and 16 times that of Germany”. The disproportion continues. Americans make up less than 5% of the world’s population, but make up over 31% of the world’s mass shooters, CNN Remarks.
This is not a “getting stuck in the weeds” type problem. We don’t need to have esoteric debates about the size of automatic, semi-automatic and AR-15 clips to discuss the staggering amount of gun violence in the United States. From outside your borders, it seems something unhealthy has metastasized into American consciousness – fueled more by the lobbying and political strategies of the present day than by the needs of the republic in 1791 when the Second Amendment has been adopted.
Meanwhile, the solutions to gun violence proposed by many conservatives almost never address guns. Ted Cruz and Kevin McCarthy have advocated limiting the number of doors in schools; a columnist for The Federalist encouraged parents to home school. Not understanding how comically bad these suggestions are at a time when the United States has already experienced 27 school shootings this year tells us there is a deeper issue at play.
Canada is not perfect, nor is its parliamentary system, which is subject to policy shifts at the whim of “unstable majorities,” as political scientist Lee Drutman noted in The New York Times. But at times when people and events demand something be done, Canada has responded, albeit imperfectly. When it comes to gun violence and mass shootings, “Never again” may not be possible. But “never try” is not a strategy either.
Ari David Blaff is a Deseret contributing writer and Canadian freelance journalist.