Issue of Gun Control and Violence

The issue of gun control and violence, both in Canada and the
United States, is one that simply will not go away. If history is to
be any guide, no matter what the resolution to the gun control debate
is, it is probable that the arguments pro and con will be much the
same as they always have been. In 1977, legislation was passed by the
Canadian Parliament regulating long guns for the first time,
restructuring the availability of firearms, and increasing a variety
of penalties . Canadian firearms law is primarily federal, and
"therfore national in scope, while the bulk of the firearms regulation
in the United States is at the state level; attempts to introduce
stricter leglislation at the federal level are often defeated".

The importance of this issue is that not all North Americans
are necessarily supportive of strict gun control as being a feasible
alternative to controlling urban violence. There are concerns with the
opponents of gun control, that the professional criminal who wants a
gun can obtain one, and leaves the average law-abiding citizen
helpless in defending themselves against the perils of urban life. Is
it our right to bear arms as North Americans? Or is it privilege? And
what are the benefits of having strict gun control laws? Through the
analysis of the writings and reports of academics and experts of gun
control and urban violence, it will be possible to examine the issues
and theories of the social impact of this issue.

Part II: Review of the Literature

A) Summary

In a paper which looked at gun control and firearms violence
in North America, Robert J. Mundt, of the University of North
Carolina, points out that "Crime in America is popularly perceived [in
Canada] as something to be expected in a society which has less
respect for the rule of law than does Canadian society..." . In 1977,
the Canadian government took the initiative to legislate stricter gun
control. Among the provisions legislated by the Canadian government
was a "Firearms Acquisition Certificate" for the purchase of any
firearm, and strengthened the "registration requirements for handguns
and other restricted weapons..." .

The purpose of the 1977 leglislation was to reduce the
availability of firearms, on the assumption that there is a "positive
relationship between availability and use". In Robert J. Mundt\'s
study, when compared with the United States, trends in Canada over the
past ten years in various types of violent crime, suicide, and
accidental death show no dramatic results, "and few suggestions of
perceptible effects of the 1977 Canadian gun control legislation". The
only positive effect , Mundt, found in the study was the decrease in
the use of firearms in robbery with comparion to trends in the United
States . Informed law enforcement officers in Canada, as in the United
States, view the "impact of restricting the availability of firearms
is more likely to impact on those violent incidents that would not
have happened had a weapon been at hand"(152).

In an article by Gary A. Mauser of the Simon Fraser University
in British Columbia, he places special emphasis on the attitudes towards
firearms displayed by both Canadians and Americans. According to Mauser,
large majorities of the general public in both countries "support gun
control legislation while simultaneously believing that they have the
right to own firearms" (Mauser 1990:573). Despite the similarities,
there are apparent differences between the general publics in the two
countries. As Mauser states that "Canadians are more deferent to
authority and do not support the use of handguns in self defence to
the same extent as Americans".

As Mauser points out that "it has been argued that cultural
differences account for why Canada has stricter gun control
legislation than the United States"(575). Surprisingly enough,
nationwide surveys in both Canada and the United States "show
remarkable similarity in the public attitude towards firearms and gun
control"(586). Both Canada and the United States were originally
English colonies, and both have historically had similar patterns of
immigration. Moreover, Canadians are exposed to American television
(both entertainment and news programming) and, Canadians and Americans
read many of the same books and magazines. As a result of this, the
Canadian public has adopted "much of the American culture" .