Thursday, December 8, 2005
Today, it's better for a woman to have a gun and not need it than to need one and not have it. Violent crime rates have been going through the ceiling ever since Bill C-68 was enacted. C-68 created a new firearms control system, and that program's cost has escalated to over 500 times the originally estimated cost. The system is seemingly out of control financially, and is failing as a crime deterrent. Police are failing to control the rising violent crime levels, even with its help. Violence towards women is bad and getting worse!
My "Women In Danger" article was written primarily for the last Canadian Firearms Journal [CFJ XV-4]--but because violent crime is also increasing in and around the small community where I live, I decided to send the article in to one of the local newspapers as well.
Was I nervous anticipating the outcome of my offering? Hell, yes! A Canadian does not speak out explicitly on issues like this, and certainly not a woman!
Am I a militant feminist who believes that every man is a danger to every woman? No. Most men are nice, and some are real sweethearts. Am I a realist who believes that a violent criminal who happens to be a man can be a deadly danger to women and children? Yes, I am.
I received a rather detailed lecture from a very irate hometown editor who strongly disagreed with me--before my little opinion paper surprisingly appeared in his guest column the next morning. Amazingly I received only three negative comments, all from women who were all associates of the Women's Emergency Centre. It made me wonder how many women out there quietly agreed with me.
With all due respect, I couldn't agree more. Feminist groups are vitally important. It is evident to us, as women, that we are all seeking justice and equality. However, it is also essential for us, as women, to recognize and respect the diversities that arise among women in our society, as well as the significance and observance of an unwritten code of honour within our feminist groups. We do not always agree on what constitutes justice and equality as we evolve, but we must make sure that we accept our own diversity.
That's my reasoning for what follows. It is important to remember that no single group has a monopoly on virtue. Almost all individuals, whether they own firearms or not, deplore violent crime and brush-fire warfare. Firearm owners share with every other community group the wish for a safer society and a reduction in the ability of those who cannot be trusted with weapons to acquire illicit firearms.
Our legal system is based on British common law and the sanctity of customary rights. Sir William Blackstone wrote his "Commentaries" in the middle of the 18th century, and that book is still the most important standard reference work on British common law and the British constitution. When Sir William explained the common law, he noted that every individual has certain rights, including the rights to personal security and personal liberty and the right to own and use property. He also pointed out that all of those rights can be attacked by criminals who ignore the distant protection offered by our system of police, courts, and laws. He knew that distant protections can fail, and then the victim can lose everything--life, liberty, and property--unless that victim can protect herself. He recognized that everyone has a right to protect human life from criminal violence.
Canada has had a closely controlled firearm regime for a long, long time. Handguns have had to be registered since 1934. (In spite of that, "closely controlled" handguns have always been the most popular firearms for use in crime.) Government control has been applied to all legal firearm purchases since 1977, and many firearms are classed as "prohibited firearms." In 1991 a large number of military-style semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines became prohibited or restricted. Canadian criminals don't seem to use any of them, although they are all easily available illegally.
When Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, was enacted in 1995, homicides were at a 25-year low. Firearms-related suicides were at a 25-year low. Hospitalization due to firearms was at an 8-year low. The data clearly showed that the levels of firearm-related accidents and deaths had been decreasing for a number of years prior to 1995, and that there was no demonstrable need for a new and expensive policy of universal gun registration. In fact, the majority of the remaining violent crimes were being committed with knives, fists, and hockey sticks.
However, at about the same time, much of society was disturbed--upset with talk of war and terrorism, and further upset when a crazed lone gunman in Montreal shot and killed 14 women before killing himself.
There is little difference between a mass murderer (a crazed lone man using a gun to murder a group of innocent women) and a serial killer, (a crazed lone man using a knife, strangulation, or bludgeoning to kill a group of innocent women individually over a period of time). Both are rare, shocking, and incomprehensible, but the final results are the same. This type of man is capable of killing multiple victims with no remorse. His message is loud and clear: he hates women, and he will kill as many as he can before he is stopped or kills himself.
Placing the firearms control laws, which are regulatory in nature, in the Criminal Code, which is criminal law, created great confusion. Also, the firearms control laws are often internally contradictory, and
have far too many gray areas. Operating the firearms control system is very costly, and it is also frustrating to try to keep up with its forever-changing technicalities and legalities. Not only do the complex firearm laws adversely affect legal gun owners, they also have negative effects on people in the law enforcement business and in the justice system.
In firearms-related court cases, the judge has the final say, and each judge has his own view of firearms. Some judges hunt, and so do some police officers, lawyers, and even politicians, but prejudice against law-abiding firearm owners is becoming a problem.
An individual must pass the Canadian Firearms Safety Course before applying for a firearm licence. A background check is done on anyone applying for a firearm licence. All firearms licences are photo ID. The questions on the application are comprehensive and personally invasive. Spouses, partners, and ex-partners are interviewed by a government official. You cannot get a firearm licence if you have a criminal record or a history of violence.
Individual firearms are secured with a trigger lock or stored in a locked steel cabinet or safe. All ammunition is stored separately. Legal firearms are registered in the government's computers. The law allows officials access to legal firearm owners' homes to check on storage methods.
Enough already! Legal firearm owners are not the problem! They are and have been complying with the latest firearms control laws for the past seven years, and, as previously mentioned, whatever the laws and regulations were at the time for a many years before that.
Criminals smuggle large numbers of illegal guns into Canada to supply the illegal marketplace. Those guns are readily available to drug dealers, gangs, and other violent criminals. Criminals do not apply for a gun licence, nor do they register their guns in the government's computers. They ignore all firearms control law, and don't do any of the paperwork the rest of us have to do. Criminals often habitually carry concealed loaded handguns. So--if they're the problem, why isn't anyone working on it? Why target us?
Statistics Canada results reveal we are living with violent crime--criminals at large, violence towards women and children, and children suffering from and witnessing family violence. Not all Canadians are passive, law-abiding people, and we need to acknowledge that.
Overall, stabbings were the most common method (31per cent) of committing homicide in 2002, followed by shooting (26 per cent), beatings (21 per cent) and strangulation or suffocation (11 per cent). For the 548 murders in 2003, 71 per cent were committed with something other than a firearm. Is our government focussing too narrowly on firearms, and missing the larger problem of the use of other weapons?
A "weapon" is anything that is used to kill, injure or threaten. Many weapons are routinely found in or around our homes, and too many of us refuse to acknowledge that. Guns, knives, hockey sticks, tools,
vehicles--all are, or can be, weapons. It is not the weapon that is the problem. It is the person behind the "weapon"--the person who is committing the murder, injuring, or threatening. Think about it. Does it make sense to try to eliminate everything that can be used to kill, injure, or threaten? Of course not, because we are still left with the real problem: humans--people who are capable of violent behaviour and murder.
Society is diverse, and will never be able to rid itself of all violent criminals--particularly those who are willing to abuse, rape, mutilate, or murder women and children. Men are already equal on all levels to women, and men are also frequently attacked, mutilated, and murdered by violent criminals. Violence and abuse are already "not tolerated by our society."
Violent criminals are routinely charged, convicted, and sent to prison. Many of them commit more crimes while they are in prison and then commit more again when they get out. Some violent criminals have no interest in being rehabilitated--they enjoy being violent criminals, and do not want to change.
Not all men are "powerful," and not all women are "powerless." It is certain that not all men are capable of abuse or murder. However, the fact remains that there are men who do commit murder, and men who abuse and injure women and children. Women and children are abused and die in disproportionately large numbers. Statistically, we know that a very high percentage of them are women being abused and murdered in their own homes by their partners.
The police cannot provide a guard for each threatened woman. There aren't enough police officers to do that. So, unless a woman can protect herself, there is never going to be anyone there to protect her. She is limited by having only her hands to protect herself when she is being brutally attacked by a violent criminal who is often much larger and stronger than she is and who may be using a weapon while attacking her! Too often, she becomes just another headline--because the police do not come before or during a crime. They come after the crime has been committed and the violent criminal has left the scene, or after the criminal
has killed himself--and that is TOO DAMNED LATE!
My previous article proposed armed status only for a law-abiding woman who has met all the qualifications and standards required of a RCMP constable. I think that is reasonable. A woman police officer carries a loaded firearm for the primary purpose of protecting human life from criminal violence--her own, or the lives of those under her protection. Such an officer is not authorized to use that firearm to protect property or to threaten an individual who is no threat to the officer or anyone else or to shoot a criminal who is fleeing the scene of a property crime. A criminal cannot take a gun away from a woman unless he gets close enough to touch the gun--which the woman will not allow.
Most believe that a women police officer is capable and trustworthy when using a firearm. So--why are there still some people who think other women are not capable or trustworthy when using a firearm? Especially women as well-trained as woman police officers? Or is it that some people think that all women should be disarmed, including the woman police officer?
An excellent course of instruction in easily learned effective methods of coping with vicious attacks came roaring through in "For Women Only--The Lioness Method of Rape Prevention." It is included in this issue of this magazine. It's well written and easy to follow, and well illustrated. It offers a woman a fighting chance to protect herself, even if she is unarmed, and I found it quite sane and sensible. The Lioness also educates women on what types of men are capable of such violent attacks. I found that knowledge interesting, and it lessened my fears about resisting the wimps who rape women.
Women are, in cold hard fact, unequal because they are almost always smaller and weaker than the men who attack them. If society insists that women be treated as equals of the men who attack them, is that abusive?