Did Parliament Shooting Change Canada’s Gun Control Debate?

by Andrew Blankstein  |  published on October 30, 2014

The shooting of an Army reservist and storming of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa last week by a rifle-wielding man had barely ended when American commentators began predicting that the attack would ignite a new debate on gun control in Canada, where conservatives have been trying to roll back gun control.

Unlike the U.S., Canada has some of the toughest gun regulations in the world and no equivalent to the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, which protects U.S. citizens’ right to bear arms.

“Our courts have said that firearms ownership is a well-regulated privilege and not a right,” said Solomon Friedman, a Canadian gun law expert and defense lawyer from Ottawa. “Absent some minor tragedies, gun violence has never really been a great social problem in Canada.”

Backers of Canada’s tough approach say it plays a major role in the difference between gun violence rates in the U.S. and Canada.

In 2011, the firearms-related death rate in Canada was 1.97 per 100,000 residents, or 679 total deaths. That compared to the U.S., where the rate was 10.3 per 100,000 people, or 32,163 deaths, according to statistics compiled by Canadian and U.S. authorities. Take guns out of the equation and both countries had comparable homicide rates: 1.33 per 100,000 in the U.S. vs. Canada, which had 1.07 per 100,000.

Canadians tend to view most of the nation’s restrictions on gun ownership as a given, say experts. After last week’s shooting, the national discussion focused not on gun laws but on the need to improve security in and around the Parliament building.

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