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Issue of Gun Control and Violence

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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" .

In an article by Catherine F. Sproule and Deborah J. Kennett

of Trent University, they looked at the use of firearms in Canadian

homicides between the years of 1972-1982. There findings firmly

support the conclusion that gun control is beneficial. According to

Sproule and Kennett, gun control "may be influencing some suspects to

kill by other methods, but it is less likely for these suspects to

kill multiple victims". From the study conducted by Sproule and

Kennett the rate of violent crimes was five times greater in the U.S

than Canada, and "almost double the rate of firearm use in American

than Canadian homicides" (32-33). In short, the use of firearms "in

Canadian homicides has declined since the legislative changes in gun

control in 1977".

As mentioned in lectures, Canadian cities have been

traditionally safer, and less vulnerable to 'Crime Waves' than our

American neighbours due to our extensive police force and gun control

laws . A factor to be considered, though, is our national heritage

or culture which holds traditions of passiveness and peace unlike the

American Frontier heritage. From our textbook, Why Nothing Works,

Marvin Harris points out that the "American Constitution guarantees

citizens the right to bear arms, and this has made it possible for

U.S. criminals to obtain firearms more readily than their counterparts

in countries like Japan...". Marvin Harris indicates that "the high

rate of homicide in the United States undoubtedly reflects, to some

extent, the estimated 50 million handguns and rifles legally and

illegally owned by the American people" (122). As demonstrated in the

film: Cops, Guns, and Drugs, the problem with controlling urban

violence in the United States is that it is out of proportion in

contrast to the available police force.

In his book, The Saturday Night Special, Robert Sherrill

explains the cheap, usually illegal, easily concealed handgun that

plays a part in so many crimes in the United States. He reviews the

role of guns in American life-from the shoot-outs of the Old West to

the street violence of today. According to Sherrill, "most murders

occur in shabby neighbourhoods; of the 690 murders in Detroit in 1971,

for example, 575 occurred in the black slums mostly by handguns". As a

Detroit sociologist added to this alarming figure: "Living in a

frustrating stress-inducing environment ...

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Keywords: how should the issue of gun control be handled, what is the issue of gun control, what is the issue of gun violence

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