His pledge was rightly taken to task by Matt Gurney on TVO.org and Robyn Urback in the Globe and Mail.
The authors made two similar arguments.
First, banning (legal) handguns will not reduce gun crime very much because the overwhelming majority of handguns used in violent crimes are smuggled into Canada illegally from the United States.
So, when it comes to violent crime in Canada, legal handgun owners aren’t the problem.
Second, as Urback puts it, “Mr. Del Duca’s announcement is a crass political move that exploits the fears of those unfamiliar with Canada’s existing firearms laws to create a divisive wedge issue out of thin air” at a time when Ontarians have serious challenges to be thinking about, like the state of our health care system.
In Gurney’s words: “And after the past four years, it is absolutely inexplicable that the Liberals have seized on this as a splashy, hyped-up pre-election announcement. This is what they think the people of Ontario care about right now?”
I can’t disagree, but it seems to me that both authors are underselling how disappointing this policy proposal really is.
Surely, the Liberals are aware that the vast majority of gun deaths in Canada are suicides, most of which affect older men living in rural areas.
As a result, the serious progressive argument in favour of gun control has moved away from viewing gun violence in criminal terms and towards seeing it instead as a public health issue.
Here is how Queen’s University’s Dr. Michelle Cohen explained it in an Ottawa Citizen article in 2019:
“Suicide is often an impulsive act, and when a weapon as effective as a gun is available, the likelihood of completed suicide rises dramatically. Simply having a gun in the home increases the risk of death by suicide… Guns must be included in mental health policy if we are serious about reducing suicide deaths.”
She goes on to note the role of guns in gender-based violence, and their particular impact on rural and Indigenous women.
Based on my admittedly limited reading, I don’t think we have enough data yet to determine the best public health response to the proliferation of handguns in Ontario, but I’m sure that the Liberals’ proposal won’t get us closer to a solution.
What’s more, by framing gun control as a criminal issue, the Liberals have made it even harder to begin a genuinely productive conversation about an ever-increasing mental health crisis in Ontario that is in desperate need of new ideas.
For recent peer-reviewed research on firearm deaths in Ontario, see this article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal by David Gomez, Natasha Saunders, Brittany Greene, Robin Santiago, Najma Ahmed and Nancy N. Baxter. On some of the challenges with the federal Liberals’ gun policy, see this piece by Gurney.
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