Friday, June 01, 2007

"Just the facts, ma'am"

Facts can be slippery things. Well, actually "real" facts are not slippery at all, but getting to the facts can be difficult, not least when the "facts" are statistical in nature.

Canada's Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day (aka "Doris") has responded to Ontario's request for a federal ban on handguns by arguing, as quoted in The Toronto Star, that availability of handguns aren't the real problem. Part of his argument:

'"In jurisdictions that have eliminated or tried to eliminate, to ban handguns – the United Kingdom, Ireland, other jurisdictions – in fact crime with guns has unfortunately gone up," Day said.'

Whenever public officials or pundits make these kinds of statements, I am suspicious. Actually, given the track record of other conservative government officials (read: Cheney, Bush, Rummy, Rice, etc.,), I now automatically assume the true is probably exact opposite or at least wildly different.

There was a 16 per cent drop in the number of firearms offences in the United Kingdom in 2006 compared with the previous year, according to figures from Britain's Home Office. Injuries related to gun crimes also fell while fatalities rose slightly."

Apparently the UK handgun ban was introduced in 1997, and there was some variation in gun crime incidents ... steady some years, up for a couple of years, now down. Well duh, such a ban would not change things overnight; we are talking about a policy that will take years to evaluate for its effect. And no one argues that availability of handguns (or not) is the sole "answer" to the problem. All sane, rational people will admit that gun violence is complex, with multiple causes and influences. Day is correct in that addressing the issue of smuggling of illegal weapons into Canada is certainly of major importance.

In addition, Stock refers to more than one jurisdiction where crime increased, yet cites only one reference. Wanna bet if he were asked to cite a few more countries he would be stammering?

But outlawing handguns, which have no purpose other than to shoot another person or for target practice, is obviously a logical action. It will give more power to law enforcement, gradually change public attitude and eventually reduce the number of handguns in circulation. To argue that fewer handguns will increase handgun crime and shootings is laughably ridiculous.

Personally I am sick to death of the "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" mantra. Give it a rest ... that isn't even imaginative.

Hey Stock, is that a handgun in your wetsuit, or are you just happy to see me?

What we need are ministers and other officials who really know things and are not talking puppets.

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