Wednesday, January 10, 2007
A 1989 college shooting in Montreal incited a $2 billion
Canadian long gun registry. Seventeen years later, another Montreal
college shooting mocks the failed registry.
Several school shootings this fall in the United States have,
predictably, led the anti-gun groups and their media allies to
renew their demands for more American gun control. But a tragedy in
Montreal, Canada, shows how dangerous the anti-gun agenda can
be--for students and for everyone else.
Because of the copycat effect, a single highly-publicized attack
on a school tends to beget others--some of which, fortunately, are
thwarted before the attacks begin by people who tell the
authorities when they have good reason to believe that someone
poses an imminent danger.
Sadly, nobody in Canada spoke up about Kimveer Gill.
On Sept. 13, the 25-year-old implemented an attack he had been
planning for more than a month, when he shot two people near the
entrance of Dawson College, a community college in Montreal. Then,
armed with a handgun, a carbine and a shotgun, he walked to a
cafeteria known to be popular with Jewish students and began firing
at random. He fired 50 shots, killing 18-year-old Anastasia De
Sousa and wounding 9 others, putting two of them into a coma.
By coincidence, two police officers were visiting the Dawson
campus that day. They responded immediately, as did reinforcements.
Gill used a pair of hostages as human shields. After being wounded
in the arm by the police, Gill fatally shot himself.
A review of security camera tapes revealed that Gill had been
staking out the school since August 10.
A few days later, police in Hudson, Quebec, arrested a
15-year-old male who had threatened to shoot up a local high
school. Hunting rifles were confiscated from his home.
Those firearms were properly registered in accordance with
Canadian law, as were all of Gill's guns.
Ironically, it was a mass murder at another Montreal college in
1989 that led to enactment of Canada's present repressive and
ineffective gun registration laws.
Marc Lépine (whose birth name was Gamil Gharbi) was the son of
an Algerian immigrant who was an alcoholic, woman-hating, violent
domestic abuser. Lépine was also a big fan of Corporal Denis
Lortie, who in 1984 had perpetrated a triple homicide in the Quebec
On December 6, 1989, Lépine--who blamed women for the many
failures of his life, including rejection by the Canadian armed
forces--attacked a computing class at the École Polytechnique, the
engineering school at the University of Montreal. After ordering
the men out of the room, he fatally shot 13 women, fatally stabbed
another and wounded eight women and four men, roaming the building
at will before a long-delayed and incompetent police response
finally resulted in his demise.
Like Lépine, Kimveer Gill was a bundle of hatred. On the
VampireFreaks.com website, Gill dubbed himself "Fatality666" and
expressed his desire to be the "angel of death." He said he wanted
to die "in a hail of bullets," and snarled that "anger and hatred
simmers within me." He described himself as a Satanist, and he
posted pictures of himself in menacing and malicious poses with
knives and firearms.
His neighbors were afraid of him, and his friends reported that
"he had a big problem with humanity in general."
After the 1989 Montreal massacre, the Progressive-Conservative
government responded with a harsh new gun law that, among other
things, banned many self-loading guns and classified many other
self-loaders as "restricted weapons." In Canada, all handguns were
already "restricted weapons," requiring a special licensing
procedure and registration; the process takes about three
Kimveer Gill's Glock pistol, his Norinco hp9-1 short-barreled
12-gauge shotgun and his Beretta cx4 Storm self-loading carbine
were all legally registered as "restricted weapons."
The Progressive-Conservative anti-gun law helped alienate the
party's base of support--it was demolished in the next election and
no longer exists. However, the pc anti-gun laws were not nearly
enough for Canada's anti-gun lobby.
Heidi Rathjen, who had been a student at Polytechnique during
Lépine's attack, co-founded the Coalition for Gun Control, which
used the 1989 crime to demand vast new anti-gun laws.
Their efforts were supported by many feminists who had not a
word of criticism for the misogynist Algerian culture that had
spawned Lépine, but who were instead enraged at traditional
Canadian values of masculinity. For example, in The Montreal
Massacre (Gynergy books, 1991), Quebec feminists called for a
complete reconstruction of masculinity, decried masculinity as
inherently anti-women and pro-death, and traced the pathologies of
men to violent entertainment and rough sports.
In 1995, Rathjen and company got almost everything they had
demanded when the new Liberal government passed a law making gun
license applications subject to the de facto veto of the
applicant's spouse or former girlfriends, and abolished privacy for
gun owners by making every gun owner's home open to warrantless,
unannounced police inspection.
The capstone of the law was the creation of a registry for all
rifles and shotguns.
Proponents promised that the registry would cost only $2 million
(Canadian). Now the cost has reached over $2 billion and is still
climbing. The $2 billion that was wasted on the registry could have
been spent on putting police on the street (rather than shuffling
paperwork). Or it could have upgraded forensics laboratories. Or it
could have paid for social worker outreach to potentially violent
After the Dawson attack, Wendy Cukier--who was Rathjen's
co-founder of the Coalition for Gun Control--said, "The argument
for gun control has never been based on individual cases."
Calgary Sun columnist Ian Robinson responded to Cukier's claim:
"Her statement is disingenuous to say the least. 'Disingenuous' is
a fancy word for 'lie.'"
He reminded readers, "The entire gun control and registry debate
in this country is, and always has been, based on an individual
case," (the École Polytechnique shooting). After 1989, gun control
became "part of the nation's ongoing gender wars and was framed in
precisely those terms." He remembered, "Anyone who objected to the
content of the legislation--citing practicality, lack of efficacy,
civil rights--was written off as some kind of psychopathic
The problem with the gun registration fiasco is not just that it
didn't work at preventing precisely the type of crime that had led
to the creation of the registry in the first place. Rather, the
registry made Canada much less safe by wasting enormous criminal
Last January, Canadians dumped the Liberal government, which had
set up the gun registry, and elected Conservative Prime Minister
Stephen Harper. He has announced plans to put more police on the
street, and to impose mandatory sentences for violent crime and for
crimes such as stealing or smuggling firearms.
Even after the Dawson shootings and a renewed cry by gun-haters
to save the long gun registry, Prime Minister Harper refuses to
back away from his proposal to abolish it.
He told the House of Commons, "What this last government did is
that instead of worrying about insane people or criminals, they
simply went after farmers."
However, Harper heads a minority government, meaning that it is
the largest party in Parliament, but it does not have a majority.
Accordingly, it may be difficult to get rid of the registry unless
the Conservatives win an outright majority in the next
Although abolishing the registry for ordinary long guns would
have nothing to do with Gill's firearms (all of which would still
be registered as "restricted weapons"), the opportunistic leaders
of the Liberal Party and the Bloc Quebecois used the Dawson murders
to declare that parliamentary members of their party would be
"whipped" (required) to vote against scrapping the long gun
Canadian Member of Parliament Garry Breitkreuz is the leader of
pro-rights forces in the House of Commons. He is also co-chair of
the Outdoor Caucus, a multi-party group of mps who support Canada's
traditions of hunting, fishing and conservation. Breitkreuz
suggests that Canada get rid of the gun registry and replace it
with a registry of people who are prohibited from possessing
This would include, he says, "all persons prohibited from owning
guns by the courts, all persons with an outstanding criminal arrest
warrant, all persons with restraining orders against them, all
persons with refused or revoked firearms licenses and all
individuals who have threatened violence."
Breitkreuz points out that it is ridiculous that a licensed
firearm owner must report an address change to the government's
Canadian Firearms Centre, yet a person who is legally barred from
owning guns is subject to no such requirement.
The reactions to the Dawson shooting reflect an important
cultural divide in Canada. On one side are people such as columnist
John Robson, who wrote in the Ottawa Citizen, "The most notable
thing about the Dawson College shooter is not that he was armed but
that he was wicked. If Canadians, like Americans, have been rodded
up for centuries, yet mass shootings are a recent phenomenon, then
maybe we need moral rearmament, not material disarmament."
On the other side are Canadians who also see a moral
problem--namely that Canadians think too much like Americans. James
Laxer, a political science professor at York University, calls for
gun confiscation. He complains that Canada has "a watered-down
version of the gun culture in the United States."
As an example of the "rancid" American gun culture, Laxer
quotes, accurately, from a magazine article I wrote:
"The ownership of firearms by modern Americans is important not
just for practical reasons (such as protecting homes from criminal
invaders) but for moral ones. A homeowner who never has to use his
gun for self-defense still possesses something his unarmed
next-door neighbor does not: he has made the decision that he,
personally, will take responsibility for defending his family. The
armed homeowner's self-reliance has powerful moral consequences, as
does the disarmed neighbor's decision that his family's safety will
depend exclusively on the government, and not on himself."
Even Prime Minister Harper accepts, to some degree, the culture
wars paradigm of Canada's far left. Harper has vowed to fight "the
Post-Dawson, Harper's government is considering further
restrictions and bans on semi-autos. He has always declared his
intention of keeping the "restricted weapon" registry (handguns and
some semi-auto long guns), which dates back to the 1930s, even
though that registry has also proven itself of very little
Canada's anti-gun culture warriors have not yet succeeded in
eradicating the Canadian culture of outdoor sports, but they have
almost entirely destroyed the legal right of Canadians to be armed
for legitimate defense. It is even illegal to carry self-defense
sprays for protection against crime.
Such sprays are, technically, allowed for defense against bears,
but of course nobody on a Montreal college campus would be allowed
to carry bear pepper spray.
Writing in the Toronto Star, Canadian journalist Rondi Adamson
described herself as "a latte-drinking urbanite who has no interest
in owning a gun of any kind." She has concluded, though, that there
is "no societal benefit" to gun registration.
Her solution: "Had all, or many, students and faculty at L'
École Polytechnique, or Dawson College, been armed, Marc Lépine and
Kimveer Gill would have been taken out quickly."
Should college and graduate school women and men who are
attacked by hate-filled killers be allowed to resist and thereby
save lives? Or would that be "too American"?