NY Times on why Canada can restrict guns and US can't misses the obvious

NY Times on why Canada can restrict guns and US can't misses the obvious
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The United States and Canada are very similar nations in a lot of ways. If you visit Toronto, for example, you won’t really have too much difficulty understanding what’s happening. Culturally, they’re very similar to us.


Yet they’re also a very different nation. One that has now effectively banned handguns.

This has some Americans wondering why our anti-gun zealots can’t manage the same things. The New York Times has the answer.

Ask Americans why Canada’s government seems to cut through issues that mire their own in bitterness and frustration, and you might hear them cite cultural differences, gentler politics, even easygoing Canadian temperaments.

But ask a political scientist, and you’ll get a more straightforward answer.

Differences in national culture and issues, while meaningful, do not on their own explain things. After all, Canada also has two parties that mostly dominate national politics, an urban-rural divide, deepening culture wars and a rising far-right. And guns have been a contentious issue there for decades, one long contested by activist groups.

Rather, much of the gap in how these two countries handle contentious policy questions comes down to something that can feel invisible amid day-to-day politicking, but may be just as important as the issues themselves: the structures of their political systems.

Canada’s is a parliamentary system. Its head of government, Justin Trudeau, is elevated to that job by the legislature, of which he is also a member, and which his party, in collaboration with another, controls.

If Mr. Trudeau wants to pass a new law, he must merely ask his subordinates in his party and their allies to do it. There is no such thing as divided government and less cross-party horse-trading and legislative gridlock.


That’s only part of it.

Another part is that they don’t have any version of the Second Amendment. They don’t view gun ownership as a right.

As such, there’s no reason for the Canadian courts to overturn gun control laws.

That won’t play here. The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined and preserved in the Second Amendment. Any attempt at a ban will face legal challenges and the very real possibility of being overturned. That plays a factor in the passage of legislation, too.

However, in many ways, the Times is right about how the Canadian system makes it easier to pass gun control laws.

What bothers me is that it seems like there’s an implication that it’s a good thing.

Our Founding Fathers knew we needed a government. They also feared government. After all, they just got out of a war with a tyrannical power. They didn’t want to make it easy for such a thing to take hold here. That’s why the Constitution limits government power.

While the Founders weren’t fans of political parties, the truth is that our system is designed so that laws don’t generally get passed easily. This is meant to prevent tyranny from rising here on our shores.


You know, stuff like deciding that you can’t buy or sell handguns anymore just out of the blue.

Yes, there are profound differences between how Canada passes laws and how we do it.

I’ll take the American system any day of the week.

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