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since June 19, 2001



More Deader


Dead is dead, and safe is safe: Liberals' registry is targeting the least dangerous guns in the country

Sunday 10 February 2002

P. A14

You'd never know it from reading my stuff, but I was once a member of the University of Alberta's writing skills committee.

Among our tasks was reviewing freshman essays. One I'll never forget advocated strict gun control, and contained the memorable non sequitur "Gun control is needed more in the 20th Century than in previous centuries, because being killed with a bullet is more fatal than being killed by a sword."

Hey, dead is dead. Medically, one kind of "killed" is no "more fatal" than the others. But I've often wondered if that freshman graduated and went on to a stellar career designing Canada's firearms regulations. Certainly the illogical obsession with the evils of guns was already present some 20 years ago.

Last Sunday I wrote how the Liberals' gun control will be useless at preventing robberies. Firearms are only the third most common weapon used in robberies, well back of both fists and knives, and tied with clubs and blunt instruments. Moreover, nearly 90 per cent of the firearms used in robberies are already illegal or should have been registered even before the new firearms law.

Handguns, for instance, account for 82 per cent of firearms robberies, even though handguns have been subject to compulsory registration since the Depression. Robbers now smuggle them instead.

This week, even more firearms-robbery statistics came available, thanks to the determined digging of Saskatchewan Alliance MP Garry Breitkreuz and researchers at the Library of Parliament.

As with last week's figures, this week's lead to pretty much the same conclusion: Legal guns aren't the biggest problem in crime. Therefore, all the gun control in the world isn't going to have much impact on crime.

In 2000, 800 victims of robbery suffered major injuries from their attackers. Only nine per cent of those (about 70 people) suffered major injuries from firearms, and nearly all of those injuries were inflicted with handguns, which, as I pointed out before, are already supposed to be registered.

Fists -- technically "physical force" -- accounted for the largest percentage of major injuries (31 per cent), clubs and blunt instruments 18 per cent and knives 18 per cent.

And just as dead is dead, a major injury is a major injury. StatsCan makes no distinction between one caused by a gun and one inflicted by a boot or switchblade.

So it's no use to counter that a gunshot wound is more serious than a stab wound; there is an empirical definition of "major," and only wounds that exceed that threshold count, regardless of which kind of weapon inflicted them.

So fists and feet and clubs and knives all injure more Canadians seriously each year than guns.

But are guns still more dangerous?

Guns are used in fewer robberies, so while their percentage of inflicted-injuries is smaller, perhaps in the robberies in which they are used, they are used more often to wound.

Not so. To begin with, the chance of receiving any injury -- major, minor or indeterminate --if your assailant robs you with rifle or shotgun is so small StatsCan doesn't even register it.

Of course, it's rifles and shotguns the Liberals are currently trying madly to register. Futile, futile, futile.

If a robber uses a sawed-off rifle or shotgun (already an entirely illegal class of gun), you stand a one-in-four chance of suffering an indeterminate injury, but again a statistically insignificant chance of a major or minor one.

If a handgun is used, the victim has a one-in-three chance of being injured. But with a knife, the ratio is one in two. With a club or a fist, the chances are high --four in five -- you'll end up hurt in some way.

The chance of receiving a major injury in a robbery is just about the same no matter what weapon (except one) is used.

A knife gives a one-in-11 chance, a handgun a one-in-12 chance and physical force about one in 15.

The exception is a club, bat or other blunt instrument. If you are attacked by a club-wielding robber, you're more likely to get hurt than not. You run a one-in-four chance of suffering a major injury, too.

Put another way, if you're robbed by a guy with a club, there's a 25-per-cent chance he's going to hurt you badly. If he has a knife there's a nine-per-cent chance; a handgun, an eight-per-cent chance and his fist, a five-per-cent chance.

If he has a hunting gun there is virtually no chance you'll be hurt badly, or at all.

But instead of cleaning our streets of baseball bats, hidden knives and smuggled handguns (or better yet, of the criminals who use them), the Liberals are pouring $12 million a month, or more, into their registry of the least dangerous guns in the country. And you won't be one jot safer for it.

Lorne Gunter
Columnist, The Edmonton Journal
Editorial Board Member, The National Post
Tele: (780) 916-0719
Fax: (780) 481-4735

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Posted 2000 09 21
2002 02 26 (added comments and graphs for US heart disease death rates and for relative death rates for men, and links to Oprah Winfrey's website)
2002 05 05 (added link to life-saver)