July 19, 2024
What Bermuda’s 50-year-old gun ban can teach Canada
Canada may not boast Bermuda’s tropical climes, but we share surprisingly similar circumstances.
Canada may not boast Bermuda’s tropical climes, but we share surprisingly similar circumstances.

It’s become a tragic ritual: Whenever gun violence strikes, there is a conversation about gun control.

And in that conversation, certain “success stories” invariably come up. After 35 people were killed in the Tasmanian city of Port Arthur in 1996, Australia banned certain guns, established a registry and implemented tighter restrictions. The firearm homicide rate dropped by about 42 per cent in the seven years afterward. Canada, too, is often cited as a haven, especially compared with the United States.

But Canada saw 249 gun-related killings in 2018. And Toronto – where a fifth of those killings occurred – endured another spate of violence this summer evoking fears of 2005’s “year of the gun.”

For people truly looking for a better approach on gun violence, Australia is not a fair parallel. Allowing provinces to decide to implement a handgun ban, along with a prohibition on military-style “assault weapons” – as the Liberal party proposed, in its campaign platform last week – won’t work if that’s the extent of its gun policy. And a better example lies on an affluent island nation that’s closer to home.

In the early 1970s, a spate of high-profile murders in Bermuda – including the assassination of the governor – prompted the government to confiscate firearms, resulting in one of the world’s strictest gun regimes. Today, only certain members of the Bermuda Police Service are authorized to use handguns; all others must receive authorization from the police commissioner, and that’s usually reserved for the military. Members of licensed rifle clubs may possess firearms with a licence that must be renewed annually, and Bermudians cannot keep ammunition at home.

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