Mass-shooting reignites debate over gun-control laws both north and south of U.S. border
Published Monday, December 17, 2012 5:39PM CST
Last Updated Monday, December 17, 2012 7:01PM CST
A mass-shooting at a Connecticut elementary school has reignited the debate over gun control laws in the United States and has critics looking to places like Canada for clues on how to curb gun deaths.
Canada has one of the highest rates of per capita gun ownership in the world, similar to the U.S. But Canada’s ratio of firearm homicides is only a fraction of its neighbour to the south.
Federal Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews credits those stats with Canada’s federal gun laws.
“We think that with the falling rate of firearm homicides in Canada, especially in the last seven or eight years, that we are on the right track,” Toews said Monday.
Brendan Roemich, of the Winnipeg Revolver and Pistol Society, said he knows first hand how much more difficult it is for Canadians to get guns than Americans.
“In Canada, our firearms regulations are a lot tighter than the states,” said Roemich. “There’s a lot of licensing that has to be gone through and also our storage and transportation laws are much, much tighter.”
In Canada, guns are available as sporting arms. In the U.S., the second amendment affords Americans the right to carry guns for personal safety. Roemich has been a sport shooter for nearly 20 years and said like a lot of sports equipment, guns can be dangerous when used improperly. But in Canada, he said, they’re made for recreation.
All of the guns linked to the gunman in the Connecticut school shooting, Adam Lanza, are restricted or prohibited in Canada.
Mental health expert Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman, said the issue isn’t only about guns or their regulation but a societal focus on mental health issues.
“This points out the need to increase access to psychological services,” said Abdulrehman of the Manitoba Psychological Society. “There were some signs that (the gunman) was struggling, yet access to care is limited and the cost of private care is high.”
Abdulrehman said those issues remain both north and south of the border.
“There’s huge cuts to all these mental health systems to all these hospitals in the United States,” he said. “Unfortunately Canada is not much better when it comes to mental health.”
Abdulrehman said the incident highlights the fact that mental health is an issue that affects everyone’s lives, not just those suffering from mental illness.
Heavily armed Connecticut State troopers are on the scene at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (The Journal News / Frank Becerra Jr.)