January 24, 2008
If restricting ownership of handguns among ordinary law-abiding citizens had a positive impact on crime, our existing laws would already have produced the benefits. Since 1934, anyone wanting to own a pistol in Canada has had to be registered with the RCMP or the federal gun registry. The application process is long and arduous. The fact that almost no registered handgun owner ever commits murder or other forms of violent crime in Canada (one of the recent Toronto shootings being a noteworthy exception) is a testament to the thoroughness of the background checks.
On top of that, since the early 1990s, Canada's 500,000 or so handgun owners have had to have police approval to move their guns from their homes, and even then may only move them under the strictest of conditions. Typically, owners must lock their guns in a tamper-resistant case, which must further be locked in the trunks of their cars. Then they must drive directly from their homes to an approved shooting range and back, making no stops along the way -- even for gas or a restroom break.
None of this has stopped handguns from becoming the gun of choice for murderers, though. Among murders committed with firearms, handguns are now used in nearly two-thirds. That's up from just one-third less than 20 years ago.
Elsewhere, too, handgun bans have proved useless. Washington, D.C., for instance, which routinely ranks among America's murder capitals, has had a ban on handgun ownership for more than 30 years. Luxembourg prohibits private handgun ownership altogether, yet has a murder rate nine times that of Norway, which has one of the highest rates of firearms ownership in all Europe. After a massacre of elementary school students and their teacher at Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996, the British government confiscated all handguns from their registered owners across Great Britain. Yet since then, Britain's rate of violent crime has soared.