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By Sheldon Clare
It’s not about safety
Since the late 1960s, the debate about firearms control has centered upon one key issue – public safety. This canard has gotten so broadly accepted that there is even now a federal Ministry of Public Safety with one of its major tasks being to control firearms in the interest of public safety.
Frequently we are told that if some law or new regulation would improve public safety, then we shouldn’t have a problem with it. I haven’t run into a firearms law yet that actually does what it claims in terms of providing more security other than a false sense of it. I have seen many firearms laws that reduce freedoms and personal rights all in the name of public safety and like many firearms owners I have a significant problem with that situation. The fact is that the firearms system is based on a lie.
Let me slay a sacred cow here - there really isn’t a public safety issue with firearms. What!? How can that be - isn’t it obvious that firearms are inherently dangerous and that people who own and use them are dangers both to themselves and the public? Well, actually – no. Firearms of any type are not inherently dangerous and neither are the people who own and use them. What is dangerous is the mentality that has been carefully developed over decades that has tried and largely succeeded in making firearms control a public safety issue. It is time to challenge that falsehood – firearms control is not a public safety issue – it is a property and personal rights issue.
How is it that I can say that firearms ownership and use is a safe activity – easy, two very divergent sources bear me out on that point. First – insurance actuaries have determined that one might enjoy significant liability insurance coverage, as much as five million dollars, for any field and range incidents involving firearms. Certainly there have been claims, but these are not common and usually claims on the insurance offered by Canada’s National Firearms Association have been the result of matters that did not involve the use of firearms. In short, insurance actuaries believe that firearms ownership and use is not a risky activity for them to insure. They do, however, believe that it is risky to insure firearms owners for incidents of problems with the Firearms Act and regulations – simply put there is more risk associated with insuring firearms owners over quasi-administrative/criminal law violations or paperwork and safe storage offences than there is over insuring against accidents and incidents involving firearms use, so that sort of insurance is considerably more expensive. In plain language firearms owners are more at risk from the firearms bureaucracy than they are from themselves or each other.
The second source is simply the data that shows who does what to endanger “public safety.” Peer-reviewed research by Professor Emeritus Gary Mauser has demonstrated that firearms owners are less likely than other members of the general population to be engaged in criminal activity including violence.
Why is that the case? Could it be that firearms owners as a group are more engaged in personal responsibility and safe practises generally than many other members of society, or could it be that the ownership and use of firearms carries with it a deeper sense of responsibility and conduct? Firearms owners have had decades of seeing their activities and property stigmatized and legislated against to the point that the status quo is simply not acceptable. While a helpful start, eliminating the registration of some firearms is not sufficient to deal with the mess that is Canada’s Firearms Act and regulations. It is time for each of us to meet with our local MP and tell that person that more must be done to clean up our terrible firearms laws. We carry many burdens as firearms owners and it is time for our government to help lighten our legislative load. Just remember, it’s not about public safety and it never has been – it has always been about cultural change and limiting property rights and personal freedoms. Canada’s National Firearms Association stands in defence of freedom and the more people that are standing with us, the stronger that defence can be.
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