Dawson College and gun control

On Sept 13, Kimveer Gill packed his things, drove to the vicinity of Dawson College, walked down the street carrying an automatic firearm (according to one witness quoted on CBC Newsworld reports), before opening fire on students inside Dawson College. One woman, 18 year old Anastasia DeSousa, was killed, and several others injured in the rampage which ended with police wounding Gill before he turned his weapon on himself, taking his own life. By all accounts, the entire affair was over within a few short, terrifying minutes.

In the 2 weeks that have passed since the tragedy, both sides of the gun control debate in Canada have started using it for political advantage. There is the standard party line from gun control advocates, trotted out everytime some crazed person opens fire on innocents, that banning or regulating guns lessens the chances of these incidents, and while its far from scientific, a look at incidences of these sorts between the US, who have no gun control to speak of, and Canada, who have fairly stringent controls already in place, seems to support the idea that increased control reduces these sorts of incidents.

Opponents of gun control, especially those people (like Stephen Harper and his cabinet) trying to kill Canada’s controversial long-gun registry program, have also jumped on the Dawson College bandwagon. They observe that the very FACT of the rampage shows that the registry isn’t capable of stopping all such incidents. After all, Kimveer Gill was the legal, registered owner of all the firearms he had in his possession that fateful. If it can’t stop Kimveer Gill from shooting up a high school, the opponents ask, what use is the registry at all?

Both sides have some valid points, but they also try and obfuscate the truth of the situation. For the gun control supporters, who use this incident to push for banning of certain kinds of weapons, and greater control of others, the inconvenient fact is that no matter how much control you have, or what you ban, there will always be unbalanced individuals like Kimveer Gill around to make the rules seem not enough. The trouble is, it doesn’t matter how tight you make the rules … Kimveer Gill was a madman intent on a rampage, and he would have satisfied those urges somehow.

The opponents of gun control use even more specious logic, IMO. The mantra I keep hearing is that the registry should be scrapped because, clearly, it didn’t do anything to stop Kimveer Gill. And while its true that it didn’t stop him from shooting up that school, within hours of the attack, police knew where all the weapons used came from, and how Gill had acquired them … without the registry, that would have been impossible, and in cases where there is more question about the perpetrator of the crime, registry information can be used to track guns used in the crime. But the biggest hole in the theory actually comes from the logic itself … if the fact that the Kimveer Gill was still able to shoot up Dawson College even with the registry in effect is a valid argument to scrap the registry, why do we have any laws at all? Clearly, the murder statute didn’t prevent Gill from killing DeSousa … guess we should scrap the murder laws along with the registry, eh? In a larger sense, theft laws don’t stop theft, abuse laws don’t stop abuse, fraud laws don’t stop fraud … why are any of these laws still on the books, given how clearly ineffective they are?

The fact is, a madman took some guns to a high school in Montreal, killed a young woman, and terrorized hundreds of others. Its necessary for us to reflect on what we can do better to prevent such tragedies, as much as possible, in the future. But to take the tragedy and drama of that day, and spin it into an argument for your own particular political cause, is an insult to the kids who were terrorized that day, and to the memory of Anastasia. Lets spend our time trying to be constructive, rather than destructive. Will removing hunting rifles from the hands of farmers make Montreal high school kids any safer? On the other hand, will scrapping the registry do ANYTHING to improve the situation, to discourage the next Kimveer Gill, or is the Dawson incident merely a convenient excuse to make political hay against a despised project of the last government?

The answers to those questions seem pretty clear to me, not having a political axe to grind. It strikes me that we could all pull together to examine what happened in a non-partisan way, and actually work towards figuring out what turns a young man in a prosperous country into a cold-blooded killer. But it also strikes me that the ‘moment of silence’ the country observed after the tragedy might have been permanently extended for those trying to score political points from tragedy. I know, I know … how naive of me.

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