Why does Andrew Scheer support stronger background checks on applicants for firearms licences?
On 23 January 2019, Dr Caillin Langmann and I wrote the following letter to the Hon. Andrew Scheer, MP, QC, the Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
As yet, we have not received a reply.
We look forward to hearing from the Hon. Andrew Scheer.
While we are generally supportive of the Conservative Party’s positions on firearm legislation, Gun Laws That Target Criminals, and we applaud the strong opposition to Trudeau’s approach to firearm restrictions by Senator Don Plett, and MPs, such as Michelle Rempel, Glen Motz, and Bob Zimmer, we remain very concerned about your promise that a Conservative government would bring in “stronger background checks for people seeking gun licences.” Unless you suspect a sizeable fraction of lawful owners are potential criminals, as the Liberals apparently do, it is difficult to see this as part of efforts to “to combat gun and gang violence.”
Curiously, the proposal to strengthen background checks was omitted from the earlier release on November 20, 2018, “Andrew Scheer’s plan for effective gun laws that make our communities safer.”
The usefulness of enhanced background screening is not supported by the evidence. As Dr. Langmann testified in his submission to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in 2018, Re: Bill C-71 An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms, the research shows that stronger background checks “had no impact on homicide and spousal homicide rates where firearms were involved.”
Nor does research provide convincing support for linking firearms ownership with increased suicide rates, as some activists claim. Nor are firearms uniquely more lethal than other readily available methods. Quoting again from Dr Langmann’s 2018 submission, “Unfortunately the most common other method [of committing suicide], hanging, is equally as effective, 82%, as by firearm and much more difficult to control.”
Professor Gary Kleck has testified that “the best available evidence indicates that firearms ownership rates affect the rate of firearms suicides, but not the total rate of suicide. That is, gun prevalence affects whether people use guns in their suicides, but does not affect how many people kill themselves.” For greater depth, see Kleck’s Point Blank, Professor Mauser’s comments, or Lost all hope. Unfortunately, suicide rates are especially elevated among Canada’s aboriginal population, where the preferred suicide method is hanging.
We respectfully suggest that promoting enhanced background screening for firearms owners is not only expensive public policy without benefit, but it is also counterproductive campaign strategy. At a press conference, Scheer suggested mandatory confiscation of firearms for patients detained under the Mental Health Act. Dr. Langmann is very familiar with this process and would be interested in discussing issues around mandatory confiscation.
As you are no doubt aware, 22% of Canadian households report they have firearms at home. This is a sizeable group of Canadians who could be attracted to the CPC. Historically, Canadian firearms owners have been a natural NDP constituency, in that they are predominantly families of well-paid, blue collar union members who hunt. Canadian hunters increasingly feel abandoned by the NDP ever since the NDP adopted more and more radical progressive positions and supported ever more restrictive firearms legislation.
The CPC should not appear to be ambivalent about supporting legal civilian firearms ownership. Given the choice between parties whose campaigns are infused with anti-gun rhetoric [both LPC and NDP] and a party that is at best ambivalent, many potential supporters could remain at home on election day.
Vigorously supporting civilian firearms ownership is sound political strategy as well as sound public policy. Yes, any candidate who opposes further restrictions on firearms would be pilloried in the media, but such attacks would win votes – and not just in Western Canada for the Conservatives.
Surveys show that fully half of all Canadian hunters live in metropolitan areas – i.e., in suburbs and small towns. This is a demographic that could determine races in a large number of ridings in Central and Atlantic Canada as well as in the West.
Thank you for considering our arguments. We look forward to receiving a reply.
Gary Mauser, PhD
Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Caillin Langmann, M.D., Ph.D., FRCPC, ABEM
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department of Medicine
Kleck, Gary. Point Blank, Guns and Violence in America, Aldine, 1991, Chapter 6
Point Blank won the 1993 Michael J. Hindelang Award of the American Society of Criminology, which is awarded to the book of the previous several years which “made the most outstanding contribution to criminology.”