Lawrie McFarlane: Whose guns are we talking about banning?

The city councils in both Toronto and Montreal have called for a ban on handguns. So have the majority of mayoral candidates in Vancouver. The federal government is holding town hall meetings on the subject.

I have a better solution. Why not just ban gang shootings? That would have the same effect, i.e. none, but at least it would take account of the facts.

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And the facts are these: Only three categories of citizens may lawfully possess and use handguns.

The first are law-enforcement officers, border guards, members of Canada’s military and target shooters (the latter being heavily regulated).

The second are individuals who require a pistol for “the protection of life.” These are individuals who have received a credible death threat, and whom the police acknowledge they cannot guarantee to protect.

They consist of people such as judges and Crown prosecutors whose lives have been threatened in the course of their duties. Anyone in this group who believes a handgun is required must apply to the chief firearms officer for their province or territory. About 8,000 permits are issued each year to members of this group.

I know of no instance where a judge or Crown prosecutor has used a handgun for anything other than self-defence, though I suppose there might have been a handful.

The third group are individuals who require a handgun because of their occupation. We’re talking about armoured-car guards and some security staff, trappers in wilderness locations and on occasion farmers in remote areas. An estimated 5,830 armoured-car guards have been given permits, and in addition roughly 320 permits are awarded each year to workers in remote areas.

As before, I’m not aware of an outbreak of homicidal behaviour by members of this group.

So what exactly are we banning, when we ban handguns? Are we telling judges whose lives have been threatened that they’re out of luck? Bank guards? Members of shooting clubs?

These are the people, and the only people, who will suffer the effects of a handgun ban.

Is that really what municipal politicians in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are trying to accomplish? Is that what the feds want done? If it is, they should say so, instead of sheltering behind a barrage of meaningless bafflegab.

There is an issue that needs addressing. B.C.’s gang-crime unit (note that term) reports that homicides linked to organized crime rose from eight in 2014 to 32 confirmed and suspected in 2017.

In Toronto, homicides have risen from 24 in 2010 to 58 so far this year. Most were firearm-related. So yes, we have a problem.

Yet hardly any of these shootings are known to have involved a legally acquired handgun. The majority almost certainly involved a weapon smuggled across the U.S. border.

The real threat is posed by organized-crime figures, and they take no account of political posturing. If you make your living selling illicit drugs, running illegal gambling operations or smuggling young women into the country to works as prostitutes, a handgun ban is the least of your concerns.

Of course, this is an emotional subject, and politicians are drawn to it as a way to deflect attention from matters they would rather not discuss. Such as cracking down on gangs.

But the next time some office-seeker calls for a ban on handguns, I want to know whose guns they’re talking about.

The Greek philosopher Diogenes was known for wandering the streets of ancient Athens with a lamp, searching for an honest man.

Find a politician who believes judges, armoured-car drivers, target shooters and wilderness trappers should be disarmed, and you’ve found an honest fool. But don’t hold your breath along the way.

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