A Ban On Common Sense

I don’t know if a gun or bullet ban would actually work in reducing gun crime in Toronto.

That’s not what this is about

But there’s been a lot of ban talk around these parts lately. Last week it was plastic bags. This week, Councillor Adam Vaughan floated the notion of banning handguns and bullets in the city in the wake of a shooting in the food court of the Eaton Centre on June 2nd.

Turns out, lots of people don’t care for bans of any sort. What gives society the right to tell me what and what I can or cannot do with plastic bags, guns, bullets, pesticides or… [fill in the blank here]? Also, it turns out in terms of firearms, there’s a surprising number of Torontonians who believe we are living in the United States of America and they have some sort of constitutional right to bear arms.

But that’s for another time.

What perplexes me about the gun ban discussion is the preponderance of those opposed to the idea relying on the argument that criminals aren’t going to care about no stinkin’ ban. They’ll get their greasy hands on any sort of weaponry they want. It’s only law abiding gun owners who’ll have to give up their hobby.
The long gun registry redux.

If this is your case against a ban, couldn’t we extend it to any law a society makes?

There’s always going to be somebody who’s going to figure out some way around every law. Why institute an income tax? Criminals don’t pay income taxes. We threaten to fine people caught throwing litter on the streets but some people don’t give a hoot and they still pollute anyway. Why bother saying they can’t?

Without transgression, there’d be no need for laws. Apparently however, we’ve always had malcontents and ne’er-do-wells amongst us, at least since biblical times. Thus, the 10 Commandments. I imagine when Moses came down from the mountain with his tablets of rules and regulations and bans, Old Testament libertarians out there were simply indignant. “Who the fuck is this god guy telling us who we can and cannot covet?”

The other line of reasoning in arguing against the ban points out the futility of our drug prohibition. Like America’s alcohol ban nearly a century ago, our war on drugs has been a categorical failure. Drugs are easily accessible to those wanting them and criminal activity blossoms from those fighting to supply the demand.

So it follows, a gun pay wouldn’t get rid of guns because, a ban is a ban is a ban.

I’ve been trying to work through this particular argument. On the surface it’s a compelling one. Until you realize it’s really an n of 1. In the case of drugs, yes, I think the evidence shows that the prohibition not only doesn’t work but it’s been counter-productive. It’s increased crime rather than decreased it.

Contemplating a ban on handguns or bullets is much more analogous, however, to the ban on plastic bags than the one on drugs. You have legit gun owners claiming they have a right to own a firearm or two. Plastic bag fans claim they too have a right to shop using plastic bags and if they are denied that right, they will take their money to nearby, more plastic bag friendly jurisdictions. An argument echoed by gunsters. They will just go elsewhere for their firearms. Hell, they already are.

Yet, where plastic bags have been banned, there’s been a decrease in plastic bag use. “China ban saves 40 million plastic bags”. What makes guns so different?

Of course, a ban won’t eliminate guns from within our city limits. I don’t think anyone’s argued that it would. But I have trouble with the idea that it won’t reduce the number of firearms in the city even if it’s mostly from the possession of those legal gun owners. And to my mind, that’s not a bad thing because if there’s one aspect of this debate that is beyond dispute is that the presence of more firearms equals more death and injury by firearms. Don’t believe me? Take it up with the Harvard School of Public Health.

Laws shouldn’t be made (or not) on the basis of criminals not adhering to them. We should apply a basic cost-benefit analysis. What’s the cost to society as a whole to handing out plastic bags versus the benefits to us of the bags? Ditto gun ownership. What cost does gun ownership have on society versus the individual benefits of… target shooting.

Let’s have that discussion instead of the heated but empty one that’s happening now.

bandaidly submitted by Cityslikr

Should Politics Trump Everything?

Emerging from a 3 day battle with some godless microbe and 72 hours of highly potent neocitran-boozie concoction to kill it into submission, I’m scanning the #TOpoli with a mixture of disbelief and.. something else that is beyond my vocabulary at the moment. Like, I’m really groggy and quite possibly drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to fully judge if I’m asleep or awake.

Is this how the more casual observers of the municipal political scene here in Toronto feel when reading through the news? An out-of-body experience, this can’t really be happening kind of sensation? This is all a joke, right? This is not how a major metropolitan city conducts itself, is it?

On their regular Sunday afternoon radio slot, the mayor and his councillor brother brag about the restraint shown when the councillor was verbally accosted by a bike courier. “He (courier) was cursing and swearing with some nasty words,” Councillor Ford said. “I told him that if I wasn’t an elected official I would kick his ass.” He so would’ve too! He really would’ve! “The mayor said there would have been ‘one less courier to worry about’ if there was an incident. “Doug took kick-boxing for six years and has quick feet,” Mayor Ford said.

No, no, no, no, no. Our mayor did not just say that out loud, over the wireless, as some sort of populist bromide. My big brother’s tough as nails! Ford tough! You know how I know that’s all just a figment of my imagination? Later on in the show when talking about bullying in schools with a newly elected TDSB trustee, Councillor Ford claimed: “We never had bullies in our school. We’d always take care of them if there was.”

No semi-sentient adult being could be that self-unaware to not check themselves before blurting out such revelatory personality traits. I’d punch somebody for bad-mouthing me if there weren’t any repercussions. We didn’t have a bully problem because we ‘took care’ of anybody we thought were bullies…

It’s the virus in my bloodstream making me hear that, right? Some sort of auditory hallucination brought on by my mistakenly having mixed 151 proof rum with my cold medication. My mind’s just fucking with me at this point surely.

But then I wake up this morning to read that there’s a court motion afoot to oust Mayor Ford from office. Good god! Is the fever back? This can’t be—it’s Monday of March break. Nothing’s supposed to happen at City Hall. Will I never be free of this damned contagion that’s playing with my mind?!

For a full account of what’s allegedly happening, read Hamutal Dotan at the Torontoist and John McGrath at Open File TO but in short, way back in 2010, then Councillor Rob Ford used City Hall stationery to solicit donations including from some known lobbyists for his football charity. Integrity Commissioner ruled it a no-no, orders the councillor to pay back whatever donations he received. He claims he can’t because it’s already been spent on football equipment and the like. Integrity Commissioner then insists it has to come out of his pocket. In August 2010, city council agrees.

Some 18 months later and now mayor, Rob Ford still hadn’t complied with the ruling. At last month’s council meeting, a motion is presented and passed that overturns the previous council’s ruling, freeing the mayor of the obligation of paying back the $3150.00. Fine. Whatever. A little greasy but, hey, politics is never cut and dry.

Except today, in an application to the Ontario Superior Court, it’s alleged that the mayor violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. How? Not only did he vote on the item that waived his obligation to reimburse donors $3150 out of his own pocket but he spoke up in defence of his actions before doing so.

The mind boggles…And I don’t think it’s just the pharmaceuticals coursing through my brain.

I mean, last week I watched the mayor recuse himself from a debate and vote on something to do with the Boardwalk Café because he’s involved in some sort of litigation with the restaurant. But somehow this didn’t cross his mind as a possible conflict of interest? Someone on his staff? One of his political allies?

You’ve been ordered to repay $3150 out of your own pocket and it doesn’t strike you as a little iffy to be part of the debate and vote? There’s absolutely nothing that smacks of a conflict of interest about participating in and voting on an item that will save you personally $3150? Does that not seem simply incomprehensible to everyone else aside from just me and my medication?

I am equally as perplexed by the reaction to all this by some of the mayor’s most vocal critics. Whether, if found in violation, the mayor should be removed from office and barred 7 years from seeking office is a bit extreme, we can chat about but to shy away from this as politically bad optics or playing right into the hands of the persecution complex right wing politicians so love to wallow in, seems to be, well, a dereliction of duty frankly. (Hee, hee. Hee, hee. He said ‘doody’.)

Of course, the mayor and his supporters are going to run with this, citing it as proof the left wing is simply intent on driving the mayor from office and denying them their democratic rights, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Witch hunt! Dirty politics! Sore losers! That’s what they do. Conservatives gotta embrace victimhood.

But to shrug this off as bad politics or risky strategy? If this is pursued, it might play right into the hands of the mayor’s underdog status? That’s almost as cynical as how the right’s determined to play this.

To view this as some sort of ‘technicality’ is to accept questionable behaviour on the part of our elected officials as just part of doing business. Rob Ford repeatedly shrugged off requests to repay money the Integrity Commissioner ordered him to pay and then, as mayor, took part in the debate and vote to overturn the city councils move to uphold the Integrity Commissioner’s ruling. Something’s not quite right about that and ignoring it for fear of playing to his base come 2014 renders our democratic system somewhat ethically malleable.

Or am I missing something here, my logic and reasoning floating in a sea of medically enhanced fluid?

medicatedly submitted by Cityslikr

Swimming With Sharks

As Cityslikr rails at the world about the injustices inflicted upon the cyclist (Oops! There he goes now, on about #OccupyTO), I quietly type away in a small corner of the office, smug in my self-assurance of being more reasonable, less vitriolic, cool in my humours as Ben Jonson might say. Such incensed outbursts, viscerally generated confrontations only serve to further the divide and heighten the tension already existing between the two aggrieved parties. Vulnerable cyclists on one side. Put upon motorists on the other.

I too attended yesterday’s ghost ride in memory of Jenna Morrison. It was moving (no pun attended) but even more than that to someone not personally connected to her death, there was a feeling of empowerment. Thousands of cyclists taking charge of the city’s streets however fleetingly. (There’s another unintended pun in there somewhere.) Power in numbers. A critical mass.

Much of that sense was deflated later in the day when it was announced that no charges would be laid against the driver involved in the accident. Not that there was any cause for there to be. It seems the accident was just that. A horrible course of events involving misjudgement, perhaps, and unpreparedness for dealing with the contingencies of downtown driving that includes cyclists. Such things will happen, we are told. C’est la vie.

And at the end of the day

Might makes right and there’s no having to justify your actions. Today there’s been all sorts of second guessing of the victims operation of her bicycle in the situation, much of it stemming around her riding in the truck’s ‘blind spot’. Apparently it is just a fact of life that we have vehicles on our roads with gaping blind spots that everyone else should be aware of while sharing space with them.

That stops me up even just writing that. Wouldn’t a rational society look at that and come to the conclusion that something should be done to reduce vehicles’ blind spots or, at least, lessen the possibility of injuries and death because of it? Once more in reaction to the death of a cyclist, calls have gone up to install safety bars on trucks where pedestrians and those on bicycles could slip or be dragged under the wheels. A coroner called for just that in 1998. But we collectively shrugged our shoulders, bemoaned tying up the business of commerce in more red tape, and weighed the cost-benefit ratio of yet another dead cyclist. What are you going to do? It is what it is, right?

Similarly, it was noted by a police officer that the truck involved in last week’s accident didn’t have a convex mirror on the passenger side which may have reduced the ‘blind spot’ and even helped the driver spot the cyclist beside him. “It is not required by law,” said Constable Hugh Smith, “but I drive large trucks and train people and I wouldn’t go anywhere without a convex mirror on both sides.” Why wouldn’t that be mandatory for trucks instead of this laissez-faire attitude of lethal blind spots as just a part of doing business?

I’m not just talking about bicycle safety. It’s a public safety issue. And if governments aren’t going to act to ensure that, what about the courts? The civil courts. If governments fail to enact recommendations made by coroners, resulting in further deaths, is there a precedent in Canadian law to take them to court and sue them for something like negligence? (You might have noticed at about this point that I’m no lawyer.)

One death does not mean only one less bike rider on the road. It has a multiplier effect. Others will stop riding out of concern for their own personal safety. Certainly children won’t be encouraged to look at cycling as a viable mode of transit. That’s amplified if our elected officials are seen to be less than concerned about it. It’s pushed further out to the fringe. My heart bleeds for you and all that but, seriously, if want to stay safe out there on the roads, drive a car, a truck, the bigger, the better.

Who benefits from that?

submitted by Urban Sophisticat