Editorial: No place for guns

By 
  • March 28, 2019

It turns out that banning assault weapons doesn’t have to be so difficult after all. All it takes is courage, resolve, leadership — and a touch of common sense.

New Zealand’s prime minister demonstrated all those qualities following the horrific murder of 50 worshippers at two mosques when, within days, she announced the island nation would ban assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“The time for the easy availability of these weapons must end,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

She is absolutely right. And what is right for New Zealand is equally so for Canada.

There is no place in our communities for these military-style weapons. The immense suffering they can inflict in seconds when in the hands of people who may be mentally unstable, consumed by hate or motivated by radical ideology is terrifying. Their mere existence is an affront to the culture of life Pope Francis extols and our civic leaders should cultivate.

It took the deaths of 50 praying people to prod New Zealand to act. Canadian leaders should take note and get busy.

Semi-automatic weapons are restricted but not banned in Canada, even though they’ve been used in several mass shootings, including the 1989 murder of 14 women at Montreal’s École Polytechnique and the 2017 murder of six men at a Quebec mosque. How much blood must spill before politicians brush past the gun lobbyists and embrace the common good?

At morning Mass on March 22 the rector of Montreal’s St. Joseph Oratory was attacked by a man with a knife. Thankfully, the assailant was quickly subdued and Fr. Claude Grou suffered only superficial wounds. But the incident demonstrated once again that places of worship are soft targets. This time the attacker may only have wielded a knife, but the Church assault was particularly unsettling coming so soon after the semi-automatic bloodshed in two New Zealand mosques.

Governments mostly dither when it comes to gun control. Stricter laws, but not a ban, were introduced in Canada 25 years ago, but even those laws have been amended over time to the extent that, rather than becoming tougher, gun laws have actually grown more lax.

Another review is currently underway. It includes an examination of the accessibility and use of the types of assault weapons used in New Zealand. Although rules might be tightened up, there is little expectation of an outright ban. That’s disturbing.

Polls consistently show Canadians believe automatic and semi-automatic weapons have no place in society beyond the police and armed forces. The same goes for handguns. Yet governments consistently lack the resolve to act.

In New Zealand it took the deaths of 50 worshippers, public outrage and a decisive prime minister to effect change. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another bloodbath here to shame Canadian lawmakers into banning these awful weapons.

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