Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's promise to ban handguns if the Liberals are re-elected is predictably provoking gun owners who are still angry about the intrusive, expensive, and ineffective National Firearms Registry created by his Liberal predecessor, Jean Chretien. But the proposal also seems to be eliciting skepticism from police, criminologists, and Liberal legislators in rural areas. From a London Free Press story:
"It plays well in the Jane-Finch area of Toronto," Sarnia-Lambton Liberal Roger Gallaway said, referring to the site of Martin's promise. "For the legitimate gun owner…it just creates anxiety. The perception is that it affects a bunch of people that aren't the problem and never will be."
Some experts say Martin's focus on banning handguns may, in fact, be pointless.
Canada's more than 500,000 registered handguns are mainly confined to police, security guards, licensed target shooters and collectors.
Sales to the public have been tightly controlled for 60 years.
Slapping even more restrictions in place isn't likely to stop criminals, said a University of Toronto criminologist.
"We've got lots of laws (already)," Anthony Doob said. "We've got laws about carrying. We've got laws about ownership. We've got laws about transfers of ownership."
London police Chief Murray Faulkner, whose officers have handled 18 shootings this year—up sharply from three last year and seven the year before that—echoed that reaction.
"We've got laws now. Unfortunately, the people that have handguns don't care about our laws," he said.
Similarly, the Globe and Mail reports that
police questioned the effectiveness of [Martin's proposal], noting that except for a small number of gun enthusiasts who have permits to use the firearms at shooting ranges, handguns are largely banned already.
"We should point out that it is currently illegal in almost every circumstance to be in possession of a handgun," [Vancouver] Deputy Chief [Doug] LePard said.
The Globe and Mail says British Columbia's former chief firearms officer considers the gun registry "a disaster that penalized lawful gun owners but didn't do much to curb crime," and it quotes a Conservative politician who notes that "violent criminals don't obey the law."