I am a little perplexed by yesterday’s handgun ban announcement as part of her community safety platform from mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow. In a campaign that has been devoted to downplaying any hint of a leftward tilt to it, this seems to be an odd choice to send out as a signal to progressives that there she is, representing their values. Personally, I’d much rather Ms. Chow take on the prevailing anti-tax, anti-urban stances of some of her rivals.
At this point, I’m assuming everything the very deliberate Chow campaign does is done in order to provoke an immediate and not particularly well-thought out response from the John Tory team. Its tendency to date consists largely of striking out before the ink is even dry on a Chow statement. NDP Candidate! No Leadership! Flip Flop! Knock, knock! Read/hear, react. Read/hear, react. Medulla oblongatarily.
Again on this, Team Tory predictably obliged, quickly issuing an indignantly vacuous response. “Empty gesture.” No leadership. “As your Mayor, I will work tirelessly with community groups and police to get guns and gangs off our streets.” Yaddie, yaddie, yaddie.
Better to have simply laid low, stay the fuck out of it, and let the chips fall where they may. Which they did. Right back into Ms. Chow’s lap.
Now look. In theory, banning handguns would be a great idea. Olivia Chow is absolutely correct that handguns have no place in a big city. I’d take it one step further. Guns have no place in a big city.
There’s nothing I love better than gun enthusiasts, let’s call them, pushing back on that statement, talking about their right to bear arms. Yeah, no. Check your birth certificate and then point me in the direction where that right is enshrined. As far as gun rights go, I’ll always come down on the side of the collective over the individual.
Equally as flaccid an anti-ban argument is the one about how criminals don’t care about no stinkin’ handgun ban. Criminals, by their very criminally driven behaviour, don’t obey laws. Following that particular anti-handgun ban argument through to its logical conclusion, we should be living in a lawless society then?
Start talking to me about the effectiveness of a handgun ban and then we have ourselves a serious discussion. Especially the ability for a municipality to enforce such ban. In short, it can’t. Aside from policing handgun ownership, the ability to prosecute is beyond a city’s control. Sure, sure. Make a point of working with our senior levels of government partners to ensure the optimum of gun safety or whatever but pushing a handgun ban onto the platform of a municipal campaign seems a little, I don’t know, gimmicky.
I have even deeper reservations about a handgun ban than all that, as much as it saddens me to say so. Prohibition of any readily available item hasn’t proven to work that well. Alcohol. Illicit drugs. Cigarettes. You can try to keep them at bay, control their use in an attempt to moderate the damage they inflict on the wider society, but an outright ban seldom results in the elimination of the targeted object.
We live along the largest unguarded border, as they say, with a global leader in the manufacture of arms of all sorts including the small variety. Given that scenario, Toronto and the country as a whole does a remarkable job keeping the gun-toting wolf from the door. Not perfectly by any means. Gun violence is largely contained in disadvantaged and disenfranchised communities, speaking to much wider and deeper societal problems, none of which can be wished away or dealt with by a handgun ban.
Still, by its comparative size and diversity of population and quality of life, shall we say, Toronto remains extraordinarily free of gun violence.
The last time a handgun debate popped up here happened in response to a very uncharacteristic spike in gun-related deaths. 2005, Summer of the Gun which culminated a couple seasons later with the lethal shooting on Boxing Day of Jane Creba, a teenager just going about her shopping business who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and, cynically speaking, the wrong colour to die in a senseless shooting.
There was talk of a handgun ban then. Closing up shooting ranges in the city, ceasing any sort of gun manufacturing. Prohibiting the sale of ammunition was also put on the table.
Even without such things in place, gun-related homicides dropped back to previous levels. Perhaps simply a regression to the mean or maybe because more effective measures were brought in place to deal with the root causes of much of the violence. Poverty, inequality of opportunity, alienation. In the wake of 2005, the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) was formed to encourage more community based policing efforts. The Priority Neighbourhood initiative implemented.
Pretty much bread and butter issues for Olivia Chow, you’d think, some of which also appeared in her announcement yesterday. “Creating police-community partnerships.” Enhancing a more nuanced police response to incidents dealing with those with mental illness. “Focusing on young people”.
So why the emphasis on gun control and a handgun ban?
Undoubtedly, there’s some sort of long game at work. In a 10 month campaign, there’s always a long game at work. Maybe by drawing the predictable (and, in some cases, very reasonable) criticism from her main rivals, Tory and Mayor Ford, she can ask them their ideas for dealing with poverty, youth unemployment, youth violence. At least I’m talking about these issues, Ms. Chow can claim. What about you two?
It’s a tactic, for sure. But how effective of one if, in drawing some blood from your opponents, you raise eyebrows from potential allies and dampen their enthusiasm toward you? How is success measured in that scenario?
At some point of time, a candidate needs to inspire supporters not just count on boxing them in to position of, well, who else are you going to vote for. Serving up a heated, unnecessary wedge issue that delivers little more than optics really isn’t reaching for the stars. It just winds up making me agree with the likes of John Tory. It’s not leadership.
And I hate ever having to agree with the likes of John Tory.
— unimpressedly submitted by Cityslikr