During the year 2018, there has been over 47,000 gun incidents in the United States. With such a significant amount of deaths resulting from gun use, this has sparked controversy around the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which grants people the right to bear arms, and whether it should be upheld or not. Comparatively, Canada has only endured 208 shootings. It is no surprise that Canadians pride themselves on having more gun control than the U.S. so what is it exactly that the States can learn from Canada? First, I intend to uncover how America’s gun laws compare to Canada’s and what steps are required to obtain a firearm in both countries. Then, I will discuss whether or not Canadian gun laws would have prevented some of America’s worst mass shooters. Finally, I will touch on the difference in gun culture between Canada and the U.S. and what America can learn from their northern neighbor.
It is common knowledge that Canada has many more restrictions when it comes to obtaining a firearm in comparison to the U.S. Thinking back to one of my previous statements, the numbers associated with the amount of gun incidents in the U.S. versus Canada proves there are additional requirements for Canadians to get ahold of firearms. Let us begin discussing what it takes for someone in the U.S. to obtain a gun. According to Audrey Carlsen and Sahil Chinoy’s 2018 article titled ‘How to Buy a Gun in 15 Countries’ for The New York Times, those wishing to purchase a gun in the U.S. really only have two steps to follow and the entire process can be finished within an hour. First, in order to purchase a gun from a U.S. gun store, the buyer must pass a background check. These checks are done in order to determine whether or not the process of purchasing a gun will continue or not. The types of people who would be rejected from purchasing a gun include but are not limited to: felons, fugitives, drug addicts, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, and anyone convicted of domestic violence. While only a handful of states require extended background checks, it is said that around a third of gun owners in America are able to buy guns without a background check by purchasing them from a private seller. While the Gun Control Act of 1968 regulates the firearm industry and firearm owners through the prohibition of the sale of firearms by anyone without a Federal Firearms License, there is something known as the ‘gun show loophole’. According to The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), the gun show loophole allows for prohibited purchasers to avoid background checks because the sale of a firearm between two people in the same state does not require a federal license. This loophole in the system makes it much easier for individuals to get their hands on a gun, including criminals and those deemed mentally unstable. Enforcing background checks on all sales of guns will ultimately prevent many criminals, and other banned purchasers from buying guns and potentially harming the lives of others. While obtaining guns in the States is a fairly simple task, this is not the case for Canadians interested in purchasing firearms.
Purchasing a firearm in Canada is more difficult and this is because Canada’s firearm laws are far more complex than those of the U.S. When it comes to firearms, Canadian law refers to three different classifications: the ‘non-restricted’, the ‘restricted’, and the ‘prohibited’. All three kinds of guns are able to be purchased and legally owned in Canada, but the requirements for these restricted and prohibited guns are stricter. According to a 2018 article posted to TheGunBlog.ca titled ‘How to Buy a Handgun in Canada: Regulatory and Procedural Steps’, the first step to obtaining a gun is taking two eight-hour courses, starting with the Canadian Firearms Safety Course and following with the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course. In these courses, individuals will learn safety rules as well as the basics of operating different types of guns. This is done to ensure buyers are responsible owners and users. It is then required to pass written and practical exams to receive a certificate that you then submit to the federal police to continue the process towards a handgun license. Police run background checks and ask for two references, including a list of names of the partners the purchaser has lived with in the last two years. This process, on average, can take about two months. It is then required to pass a preliminary license verification by the seller, request approval from the federal police for the store to transfer ownership of the gun to you, and finally, register the firearm with the federal police. In Dylan Matthews’ 2014 article for Vox Media ‘Here’s How Gun Control Works in Canada’, in most cases, it is prohibited for one to carry a firearm on them but in rare occasions, one may get a permit to carry a concealed firearm if its use is in connection with one’s occupation. They may also be carried as personal protection if there is an active police file that presents evidence pertaining to whether or not the police provide sufficient protection for that person. It is clear that Canadian gun laws are harsher than those of the U.S. and perhaps these additional laws provide evidence as to why there are more mass shootings in the U.S. than in Canada.
There have been a number of discussions over some of the solutions that may prevent future mass shootings in the U.S. The idea of arming teachers, enforcing stricter background checks, implementing harsher punishments, and raising the age to purchase all seem to be sufficient solutions to this growing epidemic. In reality, these possible solutions would likely not make any difference. As an example, in Canada, the minimum age requirement to get a gun is the same as the U.S. but this country does not see nearly as many mass shootings in comparison to the States. This provides some evidence that denounces the need to raise the age to purchase a gun and rather implement stricter laws regarding what guns can be purchased. While almost every gun utilized in a mass shooting in the U.S. is legally available for purchase in Canada, the reason we tend not to see as many shooting incidents is because in order to obtain these restricted guns, Canadians must endure hours of training in order to qualify for a firearms license. In Tristin Hopper’s 2018 National Post article titled ‘Would Canadian Gun Laws Have Stopped America’s Worst Mass Shooters’, he goes over a few examples of the guns used in America’s mass shootings and whether or not Canadian laws would have prevented them from happening. Guns in Canada are legally owned for the purpose of target shooting or hunting whereas in the U.S., much of gun ownership is for the purpose of self-defense. Canadian law requires that many restricted firearms cannot legally be owned without special approval. This means that almost all the guns used in America’s mass shootings are made unavailable to Canadians and if by chance one was granted approval, the buyer would be unable to carry such guns without proper containers. It is essentially extremely difficult for a person in Canada to conceal a firearm and get away with carrying one due to gun owners being frequently monitored. I am confident in the fact that Canadian law would definitely have prevented a majority of the mass shooters in the U.S.
It is rather well known that gun culture in Canada differs greatly from the U.S. The ownership of a gun in America is considered a right and is protected by the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment was originally established as a way for people to have some sort of protection against a tyrannical government in the eighteenth century. The addition of the Second Amendment to the Constitution provided a sense of security for Americans to defend their families and their country in the event of a corrupt leader. Initially, the right to bear arms was intended to prevent the British from suppressing the activities of the militia. Nowadays, some argue this amendment is unnecessary because militias are a thing of the past and have been replaced by well-equipped military forces. Nonetheless, gun-activists hide behind this amendment and believe their right to bear arms should not be tampered with. On the other hand, in Canada guns are considered a privilege. In Jordan Press’ 2014 article titled ‘What to Know About Gun Control in Canada’ for Ottawa Citizen, there is mention of the Supreme Court denying that gun ownership should be added to the Charter because it is, in fact, a privilege. Another thing worth mentioning is how many Canadians have strong trust in the government and believe the government will do all that is in its power in order to protect its citizens. Americans tend to rely on themselves for their own security. While it is close to impossible to change one’s beliefs when it comes to whether guns are morally right or wrong, I personally believe it is necessary for the U.S. to take notes from Canada regarding gun ownership. Addressing gun violence is essential in the U.S. because mass shootings are happening far too often. The idea of ‘peace, order, and good government’ in Canada is significant and provides evidence that support claims made about Canada being a peaceful and organized nation. The States should take note of this and consider how ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ may have some responsibility for what is wrong in our country.
I presented some information regarding the difference in gun control between the U.S. and Canada. To begin, I discussed America’s loose gun laws in comparison to Canada’s much stricter laws in addition to what the process of obtaining a gun in both countries looks like. Following, I brought up some evidence to support whether or not Canadian gun laws would have prevented some of America’s worst mass shooters. To conclude, I presented some differences in gun culture between the U.S. and Canada and what lessons Canada can pass onto the States. Understanding the significance of gun violence in both the U.S. and Canada is necessary when establishing gun ownership laws. Debate around gun laws in the U.S. is a pressing issue that still requires a lot of addressing. It really is no surprise Canada is considered the friendly neighbor to the U.S. because their differences in gun laws result in Canada having one of the lowest gun-death rates in the world.