July 21, 2004

Canadian Contraband

by PG

(Via Sandefur) Ninth Circuit judge Andrew Kleinfeld and his wife Judith have an article in Opinion Journal and the American Enterprise Magazine comparing American and Canadian cultures. One statement in the piece puzzled me:

We asked one of the Canadian border guards what Hyderites were like. "Free spirits. Wild. They have guns, you know." We were asked if we had any guns each time we drove back to Stewart, since handguns (a near-universal in Alaskan bear country) are contraband in Canada.

I mistakenly thought that Judge Kleinfeld was saying that handguns, so common in Alaska, were illegal in Canada. This confused me, because one of the main themes of Bowling for Columbine is that Canadians somehow manage to own lots of guns without having a crime rate similar to that of the U.S.; therefore our crime problem has more to do with a culture of fear -- supposedly evidenced by our using locks, in contrast to our open-doored northern neighbors -- than with gun ownership.

Of course, Kleinfeld meant contraband in its stricter definition, i.e. "goods prohibited from being imported or exported." (Contraband per se is property that is in and of itself unlawful to possess, produce, or transport; derivative contraband is property that is unlawful because it is used in committing an unlawful act.) Handguns with barrels less than 4.14 in. long, other firearms with barrels less than 18 in. long and all automatics cannot be brought into Canada.

However, "[t]ravellers can bring a non-restricted firearm, such as a sporting rifle or a shotgun to Canada for hunting purposes, for use in competitions, as part of an in-transit movement through Canada, or for protection against wildlife in remote areas," provided that they declare this weapon. Whether a handgun -- as opposed to a hunting rifle -- is an ideal weapon against an Alaskan bear, I cannot say.

In the U.S., a citizen bringing in a gun she owned in the U.S. must show her proof of prior ownership to customs when she lands in the States. If she acquires a firearm that someone else brought from the U.S., or if she buys one abroad, she will have to obtain an import permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

July 21, 2004 05:26 PM | TrackBack

As the information piece you cited to indicates, Canada does indeed restrict many kinds of guns that the US does not. Guns which have no recreational use are essentially banned in Canada. Canadians enjoy the use of recreational weapons for legitimate purposes such as hunting, and Canadian gun ownership rates are actually identical to US rates. The difference lies in the legality of killing machines with no sporting use.

As to Moore's point, no matter which side of the gun debate one is on, anyone who refuses to acknowledge that the difference in homicide rates between US and Canadian cities is simply astonishing, is an idiot.

Posted by: UCL at July 21, 2004 08:51 PM

That was the most telling part of Bowling -- Moore went to a city in Canada, directly across the lake from Detroit, and the police were struggling to remember the last time there was a shooting homicide. It turns out it was an American from Detroit a few years back. Yet there were just as many guns in that city as in Detroit.


Posted by: Scott at July 22, 2004 02:56 PM

There's actually not even a lake between Detroit and Windsor. The two cities are directly adjacent to one another.

Posted by: UCL at July 22, 2004 06:16 PM
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