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  • Writer's pictureElizabete Costa

no more guns, period

One of the unique things about a criminal defence lawyer’s perspective on handgun control is that it comes directly from speaking with the guys who are out of control.The fact that legally respected confidentiality attaches to communications between clients and their lawyers makes it possible for honest conversations to take place between our clients who have been charged with illegal handgun possession and ourselves that are highly unlikely to happen between them and anyone else — certainly not with the police or politicians claiming to know what the problem is and how to solve it.

I have spoken to dozens upon dozens of them.One of the things they tell you is where they got their handguns. Almost half of the time it is from break-ins into the homes of legal handgun owners or black market purchases from legal handgun owners who sell their collections of handguns to criminals at a huge profit and then claim they were taken in a break-in into their homes.These handguns are usually the ones for which a defaced serial number charge has been added to the illegal possession charges.Whatever legal handgun owners tell you, even if they are part of the certain majority of them that are law-abiding, they are a huge part of the problem of illegal handgun possession simply by their having the privilege of having handguns which other less scrupulous individuals must, therefore, also enjoy.It is no different than if the rest of us had to suffer because some people were really careful and honest about possessing and storing plague cultures and insisted on the privilege of doing so causing others, who are not so careful or honest, to have the privilege of possessing plague as well. Legal possession of handguns in Canada is a big part of what is killing people. Now, I understand that legal handgun owners want to believe that the 30 seconds it takes for them to access and load a legally stored handgun to protect themselves or their families is not 30 seconds too long for one my future clients, who is already armed to get the jump on them.But here is another little secret: the guys with illegal handguns are not coming for you guys with the legal ones — except to steal them. They are shooting and killing each other and, more and more often, people caught in the crossfire.

This brings me to the real insight people need to have from defence lawyers about illegal gun possession: it’s the symptom, not the problem.

The guys with the illegal handguns are illegal drug dealers (or guys who make a living out of robbing drug dealers, the murder of one of which started the chain reaction that came to be called “The Summer of the Gun” in 2005) and they are drug dealers precisely because we have made the drugs they sell illegal.We have made substances that would otherwise be ridiculously cheap profitable by injecting a risk value into bringing them to their consumers. Fortunately, there is a limited market of users; but also, unfortunately, there is fierce competition between young men desperate to escape the degradation of poverty over selling to them. This competition does not involve cutting prices — because the cartels never cut theirs — it involves shooting and killing one another.If we really want fewer handguns on our streets and a safer Canada, we have to stop this insanity of criminalizing drugs. It does not work to stop their use and it never has.We can choose to try to cope with what illegal drug use really is — a health problem — with addicts who no longer face the stigmatization of criminalization themselves or we can choose to continue to try to cope with handgun slaughter.A ban on all Canadian handgun possession would not be a complete answer to this carnage. There will still be handguns smuggled in from the United States, although law enforcement will have far less handgun crime and only one flow of handguns to criminals to focus upon.But if we get really smart and decriminalize drugs, it should become instead only a dripping tap to be shut-off with enormous police resources freed-up for the purpose.Reid Rusonik is a Toronto criminal lawyer.

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