Hey! It’s Samantha and Jack, the editors of Well-Versed. We’ll be with you right up until the federal election. This week, we got you well-versed on gun violence in Canada − in case you missed that edition, you can find it here.
We’ll be rounding up the most thoughtful reader opinions every week and featuring them in Thursday’s newsletter.
If you’d like to be part of the conversation, e-mail email@example.com − include your first name, age and city, if you’re comfortable with sharing.
Reader responses may be edited for length and clarity.
Well-Versed is The Globe and Mail’s twice-weekly newsletter that aims to jump-start your conversations about the 2019 federal election. Write to us about which issues you want to hear about and express your opinion on the policies and people we’ve examined. If you’re reading this through a browser, you can subscribe to the newsletter.
HERE’S WHAT YOU HAD TO SAY THIS WEEK
This week, we covered the hotly debated and at times highly personal issue of gun control. In response, many Globe readers shared their own experiences; some grew up with guns, while others have never seen a reason to keep a firearm. Some have witnessed violence or near-misses firsthand. The variety of experiences highlighted the polarized and often non-partisan nature of the gun-control debate in Canada.
Most of the readers who wrote to us were in favour of a national ban on handguns or granting municipalities the ability to enact their own bans on handguns.
“There is no reason for not moving ahead with a well-thought-out plan to ban handguns and assault rifles. The support in Canada is there for it,” wrote Brian J. Ford, a former Ottawa chief of police who is now retired.
Readers Geoffrey Owen and Katharine Stark wrote in from Toronto, a city that saw a record high of 428 shootings last year.
“My wife and I believe that we should have a return to the regulations of C-68, whereby all short-barrel guns and assault weapons are prohibited and all permitted long rifles are registered,” wrote Owen. “Possession of all guns prohibited by this law should be considered a criminal act … We should be a model to the world and a dramatic contrast to our U.S. neighbours.”
Steven Turner, from Mississauga, thinks that a universal ban would be unnecessarily expensive and overly punitive. “In my opinion, having the federal and provincial governments targeting measures to reduce gun violence in areas where it is problematic, like allowing municipalities to ban weapons, is the right approach,” he wrote.
Martha Cassidy wrote in from Nova Scotia to tell the story of why she is against handguns – even though her father, who she describes as a “well-known skeet shooter,” kept them around her house growing up.
“I suspect every owner of a handgun, shotgun or rifle considers themselves to be consistent in handling those guns safely,” Cassidy wrote. “But I know different.”
But other readers questioned the efficacy of a sweeping national ban, and some were concerned about the impact that stricter legislation would have on legal gun owners.
“As a firearms owner and user of many years, I can support and agree with the current level of controls but I am very unhappy with the level of violence mainly from gangs who use unlicensed, therefore uncontrolled firearms,” wrote Jeff Sutton from Ottawa. “Going after legal owners makes for a nice political statement and a quick hit in the polls without much thought to follow through … The potentially large amount of buyback money would be better spent on both mental health and gang issues.”
In our comments section, David Wertz spoke in support of municipal control. “If these cities feel they need a gun-free zone, then they should do it if the citizens are for it. But why is the rest of the country who does not have this issue made to follow along? Knee-jerk reactions with gun bans that won’t work just so the politicians can say they did something is disingenuous.”
Some readers wanted more information on gun violence and deaths in Canada before they formed an opinion – information that, as The Globe investigated, is poorly kept and difficult to find.
“Releasing the statistics on accidental shootings and deaths might help Canadians to increase safe handling of privately owned hand and long guns,” Martha Cassidy suggested.
In our online comments, user BDABJ wrote, “So much speculation about this. Let’s park all handguns with the police for a set period of time. See what effect this has on crime and make decisions accordingly. Hard facts would go a long way in ending this debate.”
GLOBE VOICES, COMMUNITY RESPONSES
A.J. Somerset: On gun control, Justin Trudeau offers no surprises – and few details
The author of Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun wrote that the Liberal pledge to ban assault weapons and allow municipalities to ban handguns is symbolic and in line with popular public opinion − but light on details. This will be tricky for the Conservatives to counter, Somerset argues, because that party relies on a bloc of organized and passionate gun owners for votes.
“The Liberals can be expected to push gun control hard, trapping Mr. Scheer between the rock of public opinion and the hard place of his past promises. But Canadians deserve specifics – on how a Liberal government would approach an assault-weapon ban, on just how cities could restrict handguns, and on how such measures will address real-world public safety and gun crime. Symbolic measures are satisfying, but bullets are final.”
Readers took this opportunity to discuss both the merits of a handgun ban as well as the extent to which the Liberal pledge is a political tool.
One user raised the point that an assault-weapon ban poses some logistical challenges in terms of definition – that while some weapons resemble assault rifles, they may possess physical characteristics that don’t meet that exact definition. “Does this ban just amount to banning black rifles that look like military weapons but are no more dangerous than civilian varieties?” user KM88 asked.
Responding to the suggestion that municipalities could restrict handguns to the point of only allowing the weapons to be stored at ranges, user Redmaple wrote that “storing guns at ranges would be a non-starter, even in large cities. There is not enough capacity. In most instances, ranges are outdoor and well outside city limits.”
Another user agreed with Somerset that the Liberal pledge was highly political in nature. “Gun control is the gift that keeps giving for Liberals, and they use the problem to bludgeon the Conservatives in every election,” commented user Snowaway.
John Ibbitson: A handgun ban in the absence of hard data is just capricious and unfair
Prior to the release of the Liberal pledge on guns, a Globe columnist predicted that the party would target handguns as an easy political win. But Ibbitson disagrees that a handgun ban is the best way to curb violence and argues that it unfairly punishes gun owners for political gain.
“If credible research demonstrated that a significant number of handguns sold in Canada are falling into the hands of gang members and other criminals, then that would be grounds for further restrictions or an outright ban. But without that evidence, depriving handgun owners of their weapons – which they may use for target practice, or because they are collectors – is capricious and unfair.”
Readers took to the comment section of Ibbitson’s article in the hundreds, arguing for and against different types of firearm bans.
One user felt that the columnist’s opinion failed to address the scale of the violence stemming from handguns in Canadian cities. “I’ll tell you what is capricious and unfair,” Expectationzs wrote. “Getting shot down on the streets of Toronto. From the end of a handgun. What the heck are you thinking?”
Like many others, user HabFan410 took the perspective that banning handguns, which are already heavily restricted, won’t address the criminal elements of gun use. “At best, it will provide a delusional false sense of security for some.”
Another user, Kapilano, took a similar perspective to the one adopted by The Globe’s editorial board this month. “There is no justification for anyone in Canada to need a handgun. Shotguns and rifles can be justified for use by the hunters and farmers in the country,” they wrote. “Your assertion that there has been no research done to indicate that legally acquired handguns end in the hands of criminals is a basis for not banning them is ridiculous. Why not make the same argument for hand grenades?”
Globe Editorial: Easy to conceal and no legit purpose – why it’s time to ban handguns
The Globe’s editorial board argued that now is the time for a handgun ban in Canada; that, on balance, a ban is worth the inconvenience to legal users if it helps combat handgun violence in Canadian cities and even if it fails to address guns smuggled from the U.S.
“Canadian gun control has been a story of reasonable compromises, aimed at protecting legitimate users and weapons, while restricting and banning what is beyond those categories. Handguns should be placed in the beyond, because they have no legitimate purpose outside of policing. There is no reason for civilians to own them, particularly in cities and suburbs, where the vast majority of Canadians now live.”
The debate among The Globe’s readers centred on whether and to what degree handguns may have a legitimate purpose.
User MG59 directly contradicted the editorial’s perspective. “Sporting is a legit purpose,” they wrote. “Thousands of Canadians participate in handgun shooting sports … and it generates jobs and economic activity. Sure, let’s punish them because a bunch of gang members who got their guns across the border are killing each other.”
Responding to MG59, user chicken nuggets said “That’s the point. No one needs a handgun to make a living. No one needs a handgun to protect their livestock. It’s a HOBBY! Find a new one. Take up stamp collecting."
Many other users debated the merits of a handgun ban in light of Canada’s long, porous border with the United States – the most heavily armed country in the world.
“It amazes me that proponents of a ban continue to ignore that geographical reality,” user Callmethey wrote of the southern border.
- Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has joined his Toronto counterpart, John Tory, and other civic leaders in the call for a national handgun ban. He said on Monday that he would “very much like that power,” referring to the idea of municipalities gaining the power to impose a ban on the weapons.
- Montreal-area MP Eva Nassif says she was denied the Liberal nomination in her riding for the federal election in part because she did not post social-media tributes earlier this year lauding Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as a feminist. Trudeau is not saying why Nassif was denied a nomination, but he is insisting it is not because she failed to publicly endorse his feminist credentials.
- The Globe profiled the campaign leaders and high-level staffers of the four major parties – it’s worth a read if you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes workings of campaigns.
- The federal election debate on foreign policy has been cancelled because Trudeau declined to participate, −–the lead organizer says. In an interview with The Globe, Rudyard Griffiths, chair of the Munk Debates, said the debate has been cancelled because of Trudeau’s “refusal to debate.” Trudeau has faced criticism over his decision to take part in only three leaders’ debates ahead of the Oct. 21 election – down from five during the 2015 campaign.
If you’re a Globe subscriber, be sure to also sign up for our regular Politics Briefing newsletter, written every weekday by deputy politics editor Chris Hannay. He will be ramping up his election coverage of all the big headlines and campaign trail news to keep you informed.