At long last, some common sense out of Ottawa about gun control.

I have hesitated for some time to write about gun control. In my experience, it’s the most explosive topic I ever tackle — even more so than abortion and federal deficits.

Gun owners believe in their right to own guns. They tend to react strongly against anything they perceive as a threat. Perhaps that explains why they own guns at all.

The legislation introduced in Ottawa last week recognizes that Canada is not a uniform nation. According to the 2011 census, more than 80% of Canadians live in urban areas; slightly under 20% in rural areas.

In rural areas, people want keep their guns to protect themselves against wild animals; in urban areas, people want to get rid of guns to protect themselves from other people.

Two distinct purposes. One size does not fit all.

So it makes sense to grant municipalities control over guns in their areas of jurisdiction.

I can understand that rural dwellers feel a need for guns. I’ve lived in areas where no one went out in the woods to collect firewood, or pick huckleberries, without taking along a gun in the truck.

An acquaintance, a conservation officer often travelling alone through the bush, always carries a large bore handgun for protection.

Even though, in most cases, animals would rather avoid humans than attack them. I’ve spent about 30 summers in Canada’s backwoods. I’ve never once had a bear exhibit aggressive behaviour towards me. Close calls, yes. Intent to harm, never.

I wouldn’t make the same claim about cougars. Or wolverines. Or a pack of wolves. Especially if I’m injured.

I try to sympathize, to some extent, with hunters. They take care of their guns. They use their guns only for hunting.

Still, I can’t understand why anyone in a modern society needs to hunt wild game for food. And I will never understand how hunters can derive pleasure from killing something.

At one time, in my youth, I owned a bow and arrow. I tried to shoot some living things. I missed consistently. And then one day, perhaps by accident, I hit a bird. I watched it die.

I put the bow and arrow away, and never used them again.

In urban areas, the danger is not from marauding raccoons or predatory squirrels, but from other humans. And there, I contend, the fewer guns around the safer everyone is.

Gun defenders will retort that cars kill more people than bullets. Knives stab. Hammers can bludgeon. Would I ban them too?

No, because they also have useful purposes. You cannot deliver kids to school in a gun. Or use a gun to slice a tomato. Or drive nails with a gun.

Guns, on the other hand, have only one purpose. They fire bullets. Even if the NRA argues that guns themselves don’t kill, bullets do.

The vast majority of guns in urban areas are in the hands of gangs. Gangs rely on the anonymity of large populations. I can safely predict that there are no gang wars in Stewart or Crawford Bay. But there are in Surrey and Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Certainly, gun violence occurs in rural areas too. Gabriel Wortman’s 13-hour rampage in Nova Scotia last year is an example. So was Jim Roszko’s shooting of four RCMP officers near Mayerthorpe, Alberta, in 2005. Deranged individuals are not limited to urban centres.

But those instances are notable because they’re exceptions.

The vast majority of Canada’s 650-plus annual gun killings occur in urban areas.

Urban gangs smuggle high-powered weapons from the U.S. Urban gangs steal legal guns and use them illegally. Urban gangs eliminate threats with a hail of bullets.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart immediately declared his intention to use the city’s new powers to ban handguns. Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum made a similar statement. Both cities have recently seen a surge in gun violence.

Granted, criminalizing some guns will not get them out of the hands of criminals. But it certainly makes it easier to identify who the criminals are.

Federal law already outlaws 1277 assault weapons, semi-automatic weapons and hand guns, by my count. In criminal hands, who cares? The problem is getting them out of


Federal legislation will offer to buy back many of those prohibited weapons. Owners who wish to keep their guns, as museum pieces, may do so after rendering them kill-proof.

At the very least, that reduces the potential supply of lethal weapons.

Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist.