Special to Toronto Sun
May 6, 2020 3:53 PM EDT
JOHN LOTT AND GARY MAUSER
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled a ban on the sale of 1,500 models and variants of firearms.
Some of these guns are already banned, but none of the prohibited weapons are “military-grade assault weapons” — the supposed target of Trudeau’s measure.
And in the wake of the horrific murders of 22 people in Nova Scotia last month, it isn’t surprising that public opinion is on his side. A recent Angus Reid Institute survey found 78% of Canadians support a ban on “civilian possession of assault weapons.”
After all, who needs military-grade assault weapons? As Trudeau put it: “You don’t need an AR-15 to bring down a deer.” In fact, an AR-15 is a hunting rifle.
It just looks like a military weapon, and Trudeau is playing off of people’s and the media’s ignorance about guns. Indeed, Trudeau has exempted Indigenous Canadians from his ban so they can continue hunting with them.
Usually, guns such as the AR-15 are called “military-style weapons.” They are similar to military guns in their cosmetics, but not in the way they operate.
The Canadian army uses select-fire rifles — the C7 and C8 — which can be switched to fire from semi-automatic to a fully-automatic (machine gun) mode of firing bullets. Canada banned the sale of machine guns to civilians in 1978.
The AR-15 uses the same sort of bullet as small-game hunting rifles, fires at the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger), and inflicts the same damage.
The gun’s .223-inch rounds are banned for deer-hunting in most provinces and U.S. states since the small bullet is likely to prolong the animal’s suffering with a wound rather than inflicting a swift death.
Contrary to Trudeau’s claims, no self-respecting military in the world uses these semi-automatic rifles. Trudeau would at least be logically consistent if he proposed banning all semi-automatic rifles. But he has apparently decided to ban guns based on how they look rather than on how they function.
Semi-automatic firearms can be devastating weapons, but they also protect people and save lives. While police are extremely important in deterring crime, they virtually always arrive after crimes have been committed.
It is the most vulnerable people — including those who are weaker physically such as women and the elderly — who benefit the most from owning guns.
The United States tried a ban that was similar to Trudeau’s proposal, and it produced no benefits. Since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent-crime rates have fallen.
In 2003, the last full year before the law expired, the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people, according to the FBI. A decade after the ban, in 2014, the murder rate had fallen to 4.4 per 100,000 people.
Even a study sponsored by the Clinton administration (which imposed the ban) found: “The evidence is not strong enough for us to conclude that there was any meaningful effect (i.e., that the effect was different from zero).”
It doesn’t help Trudeau’s argument that countries with the most guns tend to have the lowest per capita rate of mass public shooters and lower homicide rates.
Trudeau claims: “These weapons were designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time.” But he completely ignores that guns can help protect people from violent crime.
Even Trudeau’s father somewhat understood this last point. After he retired from politics, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau asked the RCMP for a special exemption that would allow him to carry a handgun for protection. It’s unclear whether his request was ever approved.
When compared to the U.S., there’s no doubt Canada’s murder rate is lower. But the last UN International Crime Victimization Survey in 2000 compared the same definitions of violent crimes in the United States and Canada, and the violent crime rate was over 50% higher in Canada.
The AR-15, like any gun, is indeed very dangerous. However, it is not a weapon “designed for the theater of war.”
Banning “assault weapons” will not make Canadians safer.
— Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and Mauser is professor emeritus in the marketing department at Simon Fraser University.