Tuesday, September 19, 2006

College Shooting Not Preventable

The events of September 13 at Dawson College in Montreal are awful, upsetting, and tragic. Throughout the debate that follows, let's agree to this and not forget it.

It is so easy to point out that Kimveer Gill obtained his long guns legally and in compliance with the gun registry and conclude that the registry is useless. But there is no way that this one instance of the registry's failure should overshadow the millions of times that the registry has prevented violent and deadly crimes.

What's that... preposterous you say... a million deaths have not been prevented by the registry?

But how do you know? How do you know it hasn't been a million crimes prevented? How do you know it hasn't been a thousand?

The trick with preventative or proactive measures is there is no way of verifying their success, yet the one time they do not prevent what they are supposed to, critics will jump on the "I told you so" train and ride it into the town square, shouting the whole trip through. Such is so with the gun registry and its critics (read Stephen Harper and the Conservatives).

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a supporter of the Liberals gun registry and its ridiculous cost overruns. However, I believe it is narrow sighted and ignorant to conclude that one violation of the registry's purpose defines the entire project as ineffective.

Stephen Harper's reaction (http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/National/2006/09/19/1861913-sun.html) to the tragedy has been particularly misguided.

"The events at Dawson college tell us precisely that today's laws did not protect us," Harper responded.

"This government is determined to have more effective laws that would prevent such a tragedy in the future."

The PM pointed out his government has already introduced legislation that would mean stiffer penalties for violent crime, including mandatory minimum sentences.

If Mr. Harper believes that any law could have prevented this violent and unnecessary attack, then I have given him more intellectual credit in the past than he deserves, and I have given him very little credit. By including the point that the Conservatives are increasing penalties for violent crime, Harper is implying that a long jail sentence would have dissuaded Gill from committing this senseless act. I am unequivocally positive that Gill did not consider the jail time he would face at the end of the day, before he left home on September 13th. Furthermore, research shows that many acts of violence are done without care for the possible sentences that the criminal may face and it makes sense. Gill was planning to kill himself from the beginning, he fantasized about dying in a hail of bullets. Similarly, many domestic violence killers will not be dissuaded, as they see murder as their only way out of an unlivable situation.

The only way that we can reduce unwanted gun killings is to reduce access to guns. Don't worry, I've heard it all before:
  • Guns don't kill people, people kill people
  • If guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns
These arguments/slogans are catchy but thoughtless. Guns have only one purpose and that is to kill, their access needs to be controlled. I understand that some guns are needed in society and their are many responsible gun owners who do not deserve to have their private property controlled by the government. But even responsible gun owners want to see illegal guns removed from society.

The first step in getting rid of illegal and illegally obtained guns is to identify them as such, as opposed to legally owned firearms. How can we possibly tell the difference between a legal gun and an illegal gun? You keep track of the legal guns, identify them and compile the list in some sort of ...er, ...ah, ...catalogue of guns. I don't know if this was the purpose or intent of the Liberal gun registry, and that is why I cannot support it - but I see no way to get rid of illegal firearms that are already in Canada without it.