Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of people with poor mental health = 50 deaths.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

June 17th, 2016


It was a rare moment.

Democrat and republican senators actually agreed to prohibit the sale of assault weapons to people whose names appeared on a terrorist-watch or no-fly list. In fact automatic assault weapons, like the US army’s M16, are restricted. So in theory civilians can no more legally obtain one of these any easier than they could a fully-functioning tank, B-52 bomber or a nuclear missile. But getting one of their semi-automatic cousins is a different story.

Bill Clinton, in 1994, signed a full-on ban for all assault weapons, though he had to include a ten year sunset clause to get the bill through Congress. And since GW Bush was president while the sun was setting, the ban wasn’t re-instated on its best before date, making it open season for gun buyers. So it’s no wonder that these assault weapons have been the first choice of the perpetrators of America’s mass shootings/killings since then.

AR 15

Less than $1000 retail

The popular AR15 is a lightweight, compact rifle, which only requires a slight shift of one’s finger to fire off a round. And there can be as many as 30 rounds of ammo in the magazine should one want to do a lot of damage. It’s not clear how long it took the mad gunman to empty his magazine and re-load before he killed almost 50 people and wounded almost as many in that crowded night club in Orlando Florida last weekend, but it wouldn’t have been long.

Assault rifles have only one purpose, since they make lousy target or hunting guns – we once again we saw how effective they can be in the hands of a terrorist. Believe it or not it is possible to purchase one of these agents of death in Canada, if you are prepared to go through the hoops and hurdles. But then the weapon is restricted for use only on the target range.

As for US president Obama, gun control has to be one of his biggest failings. After each mass kill, he would rail and try to get new legislation to ban these guns. But like the cartoon character Elmer Fudd, he never could quite bag that prize. After Orlando the frustrated US leader complained that suspects on a terrorist-watch or no-fly list aren’t allowed to board a plane in the US but are free to buy an assault rifle.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Senate democrats picked up the theme and after a marathon filibuster session managed to get bi-partisan agreement. And It didn’t hurt that prospective GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump found himself also concurring.

Char Heston clutching a rifle

Charlton Heston clutching a rife at a National Rifle Association convention,

Trump at one point in his life had been an advocate of more gun control. That is until the NRA (National Rifle Association) endorsed him for president. So now he argues teachers should also be gun slingers and that the best way to reduce gun killings is for everyone to carry a gun. Does he have a point? Had some of the partiers in that Orlando nightclub been carrying, instead of just carrying-on, they might have been able to take out the shooter before the count got to 49 fatalities.

But by extension that is a patently illogical argument. It’s true that mutually assured destruction may have kept nuclear armed nations from using their weapons, but would the same approach work for ordinary civilians? Defenders of loose gun laws are hardly driven by logic, meaningful empirical research or reason. But all they need to do is consider how loose guns were a failure even in the Wild West. Indeed the Wyatt Earps’ of that day kept the peace only by keeping the guns out of Dodge. Their gun laws were tougher than most American states have today and they worked.

Assuming the US House of Representatives also agrees to the modest assault rifle restriction, this would be a tiny step towards sensible gun policy south of the border. And a long march always begins with a first step in the right direction. That direction would be where Japan and Australia have marched, with gun laws that make mass shootings almost unimaginable.

The Chretien government made such a mess of introducing universal long-gun registration in this country two decades ago, that its eventual dismantling by the subsequent right-wing government was almost a given. And sure enough, once Harper got his majority he shut it down and destroyed all of the records which had been collected at significant public expense. In another blow to national unity he forced Quebec’s government into court in a failed attempt by that province to use those records as the basis for its own long-gun registry.

Perhaps as a sop to the western gun lobby the Trudeau government decided to campaign against bringing back the long-gun registry, in fact calling its creation a mistake. Still he did make several gun control promises during last year’s election, which are still in process.

Fire arms possesion certificate

This is all you need in Canada

One of those was to implement Canada’s obligations under the International Arms Trade Treaty, requiring manufactures and importers to place special markings on guns. The Harper government, likely in deference to the National Firearms Association (Canada’s NRA), had procrastinated on this simple requirement which facilitates international armament tracking.

And if eliminating the gun registry wasn’t enough, one Conservative MP, a mere month before the Orlando disaster, presented a petition to de-restrict the sale of assault weapons here in Canada. That would mean anyone with a firearms possession certificate could belly up to their local gun shop and bring one of those beauties home to show their little woman or man. Then it’s off to the woods to see about finally bagging that bunny in the bushes – or worse, for some other kind of hunting in a more public place.


Ray Rivers is an economist and author who writes weekly on federal and provincial issues, applying his 25 years of involvement with federal and provincial ministries.  Rivers’ involvement in city matters led to his appointment as founding chair of Burlington’s Sustainable Development Committee.  He was also a candidate in the 1995 provincial election

Background links:

Samantha Bee –  US Guns –  US Gun Laws  

Guns and Crime in Canada –

Obama on Guns –

More Obama –

LGBT Orlando –

Trump –

More Trump – 

US Gun DebateGuns and the Wild West –  Gun Marking Canada – 

More Marking – 

Liberal Promises – 

Assault Weapons in Canada –

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5 comments to Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of people with poor mental health = 50 deaths.

  • Gary

    Mr. Rivers I am tempted to answer your question by saying 72 virgins, but that would be way too easy given the self-loathing gay aspect of this case.. The standard legal test for a defence of mental deficiency to determine hospital versus jail is whether the perp was so mentally deficient he/she did know knew right from wrong or if he/she did know right from wrong was otherwise unable to control themselves owing to some mental defect. This implies that the rationality in question is not what is in the murderer’s mind, but how that stacks up with society’s notion of right and wrong. This raises an even more intriguing question when it comes to Islamic issues. It is not wrong to kill gays in accordance with Islamic doctrine. So, if the Orlando shooter was steeped in Islamic dogma he would not be doing wrong. In fact, a Florida imam was quoted as advising that killing gays was an act of kindness.

  • Yan Ki

    The American public and its acolytes are indeed suffering from poor mental health. How else could anyone describe maintenance of a system that has allowed 1.15 million Americans to be killed by guns in the US since John Lennon’s murder in 1980. If that isn’t shocking enough, how about the fact that toddlers have already shot at least 23 people so far this year and the average daily death toll by guns in the US is over 90. It will take more than a bandage to heal those wounds.

  • Ray Rivers

    Gary – thanks for your comment. And you raise an excellent point, which we will no doubt hear a lot about as the gun lobby looks to move the discussion away from loose guns. Is someone who does something like this mentally ill?

    You mention rational – seems to me that rational people try to get something out of their actions; some kind of payback – or they might just get trapped and panic into something they’d not do otherwise. Bernardo got some kind of weird sexual satisfaction out of torturing and killing his victims – I’d call that criminal, perverse, immoral and highly anti-social but to him it was rational. On the other hand, what dd the Orlando shooter get killing all those people?

  • Gary

    If there is a point to this article, I failed to grasp it. But the headline is very interesting. You or your headline writer has decided that the Orlando massacre was the work of a mentally deranged person. None of the facts so far divulged by investigation and publication would support such a position. It is very easy for normally peaceful people to assume that murder must be the act of the mentally ill persons in our society. So how is it that we lock up perps like Paul Bernardo in prisons instead of mental hospitals, but we assume the Orlando shooter was not rational and suffering some mental defect.

  • Well researched and well written. As you know, I have military and civilian Expert ratings with firearms, including semi and full automatic versions. I also have a cross-State Concealed Carry license. I agreed with the assault weapon ban in the past, can see no conceivable reason for private ownership of these weapons now, and support rein-statement of the ban. I’ve also written two articles, On Target and Packin’, on my blog/website.

    Having seen the outcome from the use of assault weapons, I can only imagine a person who advocates them as hunting weapons is an idiot. The same goes for “home defense”, an area I am professionally trained and experienced in. Marco