Pulse of Canada

Pulse of Canada: Does Canada need tighter gun restrictions?

Does Canada need to further tighten gun restrictions?In light of the Newtown elementary school shooting last week and a number of mass shootings in 2012, do you think Canada needs to further tighten gun restrictions?

Each Friday, Yahoo! Canada News asks Canadians where they stand on the important issues of the day, and our panel of experts tackle the same question.

This week we asked:

In light of the Newtown elementary school shooting last week and a number of mass shootings in 2012, do you think Canada needs to further tighten gun restrictions?

Thomas Bink: I’m not sure on this one. I think Canada already has fairly strict regulations on firearms, but I suppose we could go further – like some police chiefs and mayors have advocated, anyone caught with a handgun goes to jail. But I think regardless of what we do in Canada, the biggest issue in terms of guns used in crime is the number of firearms illegally streaming across the border from the U.S. I think if the Americans finally tackle their alarming gun control issues it will, by extension, reduce the number of guns in Canada.

Andy Radia: First of all, let's spend some money on strengthening our border controls to make sure contraband guns and bullets don't enter the country. Also, I think it's important to maintain existing laws but I don't think that's happening. Since coming into power, the Tories have killed the long-gun registry (which was widely supported by the police chiefs) and – just this week – they repealed some gun show rules. Moreover, I'm starting to believe that a bullet ban – as suggested by some Toronto city councillors – is a good idea for Canada's larger cities.

Matthew Coutts: I’m fairly satisfied with the restrictions we have now. I know mass shootings are a reality here in Canada, but not to the extreme they face in the U.S. Toronto’s Eaton Centre is just the most recent example. But in that case I don’t feel like access to legal firearms was the underlying factor. For me, the key test on this is the gut check. I don’t fear those legally-owned guns. I fear the illegal ones being held by troubled hands.

Andy Radia: What about the 'legal firearms' in Canada being stolen or sold on the black market? This has to be a concern. Over the summer, I wrote a story about Canada's gun culture. According to GunPolicy.org, a website hosted by the University of Sydney (Australia), the estimated total number of guns held by civilians in Canada is 9,950,000. The website also notes that, with a ratio of 23.8 firearms per 100 people, Canada is the thirteenth-highest gun-toting country in the world. So, we're better than the United States – whoopee!  We still have a gun problem, as is evident by the Eaton Centre shootings, the Toronto shootings over the summer and the continuing gang violence in Montreal and Vancouver.

Matthew Coutts: Andy does have a point about legal guns being stolen or sold. And even properly-licenced firearms can be behind major destruction. I believe at least some of the guns used in Montreal’s Dawson College shooting were licenced by the perpetrator. But unless we ban guns outright, there will always be some concern. I am not a gun lover by any definition, but I don’t think an all-out ban is realistic. I do think our current level of restrictions is reasonable, for the most part. As long as the government doesn’t continue break them down any further, of course.

Thomas Bink: Good points, all. I think there’s a real difference between rifles used by hunters and ranchers to automatic weapons or handguns that clearly have only one purpose, and that’s to kill people. There’s no reason for anyone to have automatic, semi-automatic, or handguns, really. If Canada cracks down on limiting those weapons and jails anyone caught with one, it doesn’t matter whether the guns came from the U.S. or somewhere else. You’re just going to jail, because the only reason to have those weapons is to kill.

Radia: I think we all join the chorus of voices wanting our neighbours to the south to strengthen their gun laws. None of us want to see a repeat of the Newtown shootings. We do have good gun control regulations in this country. But, at the same time, we must never become complacent.

What do you think? Share your opinions in the comments area below.

Pulse of Canada appears each Wednesday and Friday
on Yahoo! Canada News.