Debating the Future of Handguns: The Canada Letter

Images : Chris Helgren/Reuters


We struck a nerve when we asked you a couple of weeks ago for your thoughts about a possible ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada after the federal government said that it will seek the views of Canadians on that question. You responded with an unusually large number of emails. Here are some of the highlights. They have been edited for length and clarity:

I see absolutely no reason for the personal possession of handguns and most certainly not for assault weapons. If that interferes with a personal hobby, then too bad.

—Dr. M. Clement Hall

I am a pathologist who has been performing forensic autopsies since 1983. In 1990, I spent a week at the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto. One afternoon, the director of ballistics showed me a room covered with confiscated guns used in crimes. He was quite clear that at that time the vast majority of handguns used in crimes were manufactured in the United States and imported illegally. He showed me a silver colored six-shot revolver and stated that it sold for about $50 in Detroit and $600 on the street in Toronto.

If this situation has changed there should be no problem amassing the data to prove it.

So what is the solution? First, we need data. In the absence of proof that legal firearms are being diverted to the criminal market, restricting their sale any further would seem pointless. Effective border controls might help if most guns are coming from the U.S. But we must consider that a motivated killer often finds other ways to do horrific damage to other people.

—Dr. Rocke Robertson, Cranbrook, British Columbia

Handguns have absolutely no place in our society. Although we have laws already on the books, we need more — and more enforcement. Having a gun in the city is completely unnecessary unless you are a policeman. Why would anyone else have a gun: target practice? That is a pretty lame explanation for needing to own a killing tool!

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