Koopmans: Time to ban semi-auto firearms

I have three guns. I own a 25-year-old .270 bolt-action hunting rifle and two pump shotguns. One is a 12-gauge I use when I hunt geese, the other is an old 20-gauge that gets out every once in a while
to chase grouse.

I own them for no other reason than I hunt, which I enjoy a great deal. If I didn't hunt, however, I wouldn't keep them, because guns scare me. Why? I've seen what they can do.

Guns are made for one purpose, no matter what some claim. To kill things. Yes, there are variations of guns built with non-lethal purposes like target shooting, but even they can be deadly. Guns deal death.

I am grateful we have strict rules in Canada about licencing and ownership. It should be difficult to buy and own a gun. It's a serious responsibility.

There is one area, however, we are not strict enough. Open up the pages of any sporting catalogue, visit a website like www.cabelas.ca or walk through a gun store and soon enough you'll spot them - the so-called "tactical" weapons.

They are modelled after military firearms in every way. They are black, sleek and deadly looking. In Canada, real military firearms, the kind that our armed forces use in war zones, are restricted or prohibited. But the ones we can buy easily as consumers are darned close.

The most dangerous thing about them is the fact they are semi-automatic, which means every pull of the trigger fires a round and loads a new one from an attached magazine. It's the kind of rifle that evil freaks and the mentally deranged inevitably pull from the cabinet when they set out to destroy lives, as we saw in Newtown, Conn. and Colorado last year.

There is a difference in Canada, however. In the U.S, you can buy tactical rifles with 30-round magazines. Here, magazines are limited to capacities of five, at least for centrefire rifles. It's a small distinction, and there are loopholes. You can buy a Mossberg "tactical" .22-calibre rimfire rifle, for example - just as sleek and black and deadly - with a 25-round magazine.

It's time we ban semi-automatic firearms in Canada.

There is no need for them in any circumstance reasonable people can imagine. Banning semi-automatic weapons would remove from the marketplace a huge array of firearms designed largely to kill people. And, please, let's not hear anyone suggest these "tactical" guns are built with any other purpose in mind, even if most who own them don't use them for criminal purpose, which even if true does not excuse their existence.

Yes, there are semi-automatic hunting rifles and shotguns, too. But hunters don't need semi-automatic guns. A double-barrel shotgun is just as fast to shoot. For hunting deer or moose, a bolt-action - even a single-shot rifle - is all that's required.

No one needs a Benelli MR1 Tactical .223 semi-automatic rifle with pistol grip (it sells for $1,600, and requires nothing more than a basic firearms licence to purchase and own). Who needs a red-dot laser sight, or any of the paramilitary add-ons that attach to this gun's "military grade" accessory ramp?

The U.S. is a frightening example of gun culture gone nuts. We don't need to follow in our neighbour's footsteps.

Banning semi-automatic weapons outright - no exceptions or exemptions - would tell everyone quite clearly about the kinds of things Canadians hold important.


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