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|Lorne Gunter: Gun control advocates play disingenuous game with suicide stats|
Mar 16, 2012 – 1:31 PM ET | Last Updated: Mar 16, 2012 1:36 PM ET
I was once a member of the writing competency committee at the University of Alberta. In the early 1980s, professors had become so dismayed at the inability of incoming freshmen to put together coherent sentences that each new admitee was made to write a brief essay that was analysed for writing skill. Students who did poorly were assigned to remedial writing classes.
One of the committee’s duties was to read a representative sampling of each year’s essays. Even nearly 30 years later, one example still stands out for me, not for its poor construction but for its incoherent logic: “Gun control is necessary now more than in previous centuries because being killed with a bullet is more fatal than being killed by a sword.”
There are degrees of dead? I never knew. Dead, deader and deadest.
I was reminded of this Thursday when reading the comments of Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control. The Tories’ bill to end the federal gun registry is taking its last few steps through the Senate and Ms. Cukier and others are making one final effort to prevent its passage.
“In 1995, there were 1,125 firearms deaths in Canada, in 2008 it was 754, so that’s almost 400 fewer deaths per year,” Ms. Cukier told reporters. Most of the drop, she explained, was a result of fewer firearms accidents and, especially, suicides. “Experts say legislation has had a profound impact on suicides with firearms,” she contended.
But this only matters if you care how people commit suicide, not whether they kill themselves.
There are roughly the same number of suicides committed in Canada each year. Annually between 3,500 and 3,800 Canadians decide to end their own lives, and the number has been remarkably consistent for nearly a quarter of a century.
The registry may have had some impact – or not – on reducing the number of firearms suicides (even Ms. Cukier admits she cannot tell with certainty whether the reduction is the result of the long-gun registry or the requirement of all firearms owners to get a license or some other factor). But what it has not had is any impact at all on the overall number of suicides.
People intent on killing themselves may not be using guns to do so as often as they did before the registry opened in 1998, but they are still killing themselves. They are simply using other methods more now. For instance, during the time firearms suicides have declined, suicides by hanging have gone up nearly 75%. Instead of using guns, troubled Canadians have turned to ropes (and pills and poisons and gas, etc.)
We already know the registry has done nothing to reduce murder and other violent crime, so its defenders have resorted to insisting it has saved lives in other ways. But this is delusional or even dishonest.
Like the freshman back in 1982 who thought that somehow being dispatched by a bullet was even worse than being run through with a sword, Ms. Cukier’s contention that the registry is worth keeping around because it has prevented firearms suicides (but not overall suicides) is illogical and, quite frankly, vaguely ghoulish.
In effect, she is saying it was worth spending $2 billion or $3 billion of taxpayers’ money (not to mention branding law-abiding gun owners as criminals) just so 400 or so disturbed Canadians each year could be persuaded to end their lives with a noose rather than a shotgun.
Follow Lorne on Twitter @lornegunter