Gun Contorll

Scholarly Essay: Gun Control


There has been considerable debate recently in Canada over the issue of gun control. The Canadian parliament enacted the Firearms Act to enforce gun control by requiring gun owners to register their firearms. Just recently, the government of Alberta lead in a charge, including five other provinces and numerous pro-gun groups, complaining that the law is unconstitutional and intrudes on provincial jurisdiction. They also claim that the act infringes on property and civil rights that are guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Parliament contends that the government of Canada is within its rights to protect public safety. Pro-gun control organizations, police chiefs and the City of Toronto also back the Firearms Act. The enacting of the Firearms Act by the government of Canada is legitimately constitutional and is within the jurisdiction of Parliament as it only seeks to protect the well being of Canadians. Furthermore, this legislation does not intrude on provincial jurisdiction because it is a representation of all Canadian’s rights.

The Canadian law that requires the licensing and registration of handguns has been around since the 1930’s. The new statute, enacted in 1995 is currently under heated debate, the act extends the licensing and registration requirements to shotguns and rifles. Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control says, “More Canadians are killed with rifles and shotguns every year than with handguns”. The ultimate purpose of the Act according to the government is to reduce firearm offences and violent crimes including murder. Moreover, Cukier believes the real issue is saving lives, as licensing and registration help make gun owners more accountable. She also points out a list of kids killed with firearms- a boy shot at a birthday party, a Grade 3 student shot as his twin played with a rifle. Gun control advocates may also highlight some other incidents involving firearms including the 1989 massacre at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique that claimed the lives of fourteen women and the recent school shooting that killed a fifteen-year old student. Ironically, the shooting occurred at a Taber, Alberta high school, the same province that is leading a fight to strike down the Firearms Act as unconstitutional.

On February 21 and 22 of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada was asked to rule whether the toughest gun control laws ever passed in Canada was unconstitutional. The previously mentioned incidents involving firearms were used to boost the case for gun control advocates, including police chiefs, health and victims’ groups and the City of Toronto. Lawyers for the provinces involved and several pro-gun organizations claimed that “federal legislation does nothing to make Canadians safer”. Furthermore, they denounced the law as “an intrusion on provincial jurisdiction”. On the other hand, Graham Garton, lawyer for the federal government, told the hearing that anti-gun control talk “makes for good provincial politics”. He says, “I think it’s clear that Alberta and the challengers have come forward with a political argument dressed up as a legal argument and the clothes just don’t fit.” Roderick McLennan, lawyer for the Alberta government, countered that statement saying, “I don’t think we’re putting forward a political argument at all.”
The provinces against the legislation argue that the 1995 statute invades provincial jurisdiction over property and civil rights. The government of Alberta claims that:
"Only Canada, the Women\'s Shelters and the Coalition (for gun control) argue that the Firearms Act and related provisions under the Criminal Code are, in their entirety, within the constitutional power of Parliament. All of the other interveners, with the exception of Ontario, support Alberta\'s position that the licensing and registration provisions infringe on the province\'s jurisdiction in relation to "property and civil rights" [under s.92 (13) of the Constitution Act, 1867] to the extent that they relate to "ordinary firearms". They argue that the impugned licensing and regulation provisions are, in their essence, about regulation of property "simpliciter" and not about public safety or crime prevention.

The government counters that it can use its criminal law powers to try to protect the safety of Canadians. The comparison between firearms and motor vehicles can further illustrate this point. Like firearms, motor vehicles are registered and licensed to owners to protect the private property of the owners and others. Moreover, owning