Peter Donolo cautions Canadians not to be smug about gun laws and violence, noting that when the US is factored out, Canada’s rate of death by firearms is twice that of Australia, 10 times that of Great Britain. As well, several restrictions on ownership and registration were reduced by the Harper government.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

History, social studies, current events

Key Question to Explore:

How have Canada’s gun laws changed over the past 12 years?

New Terminology:

Toxic, laxness, self-delusion, AR15

Materials Needed:

Globe article

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Although Canada has a lower rate of death by firearm than the US, our gun laws are not nearly as restrictive as most Canadians might think. Except for Quebec, the national firearms registry was cancelled by the previous Conservative government, which also fought successfully to allow the sale of military assault rifles and sniper rifles. To this day, some Conservative MPs and firearms rights groups call for lifting the sanctions on owning the AR15, the weapon used in the recent mass shooting in Florida.

As well, the number of firearms coming into Canada doubled to two million between 2012 and 2016, and these include 300,000 handguns which, contrary to popular belief, are not banned in Canada. Students can benefit from a brief lesson on Canada’s gun laws, and on the status of gun ownership in Canada.

Action (lesson plan and task):

Engage students in a short discussion about guns in Canada, starting with a reference to the recent shootings in Florida. Note that discussing mass school shootings can be understandably disturbing to students. Use your discretion.

By a show of hands, indicate whether you think the following claims are true or false:

  • Pistols and handguns are banned in Canada (false)
  • You cannot buy an assault or sniper rifle in Canada (false)
  • Canadians import guns at a rate of about 500,000 per year (true)
  • A Canadian can buy as many rifles or shotguns as he or she wishes, and no record is kept (true)
  • A Canadian politician is trying to lift the restriction on AR15-type firearms in Canada (true)
  • Australia has more deaths by firearm per capita than Canada (false)
  • “Gun homicides in Canada are about as common as deaths from alcohol poisoning in the United States.” (false)
  • Finally, can you identify anything in the article that indicates bias by the author, in favor of or against more restrictive firearms legislation in Canada?

Organize students in pairs, and have them read the accompanying article by Peter Donolo. They are to underline, or highlight, anything in the article that surprises them, or that changes their view of Canadian gun laws. As well, they are to offer personal opinions on whether Canada needs more restrictions on guns or less.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students discuss the article in class, indicating any changes in their attitudes toward gun ownership in Canada.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • In simple terms, students can describe changes in Canadian firearms regulations over the past decade or so.

Confirming Activity:

  • If possible, students could visit an outlet that sells firearms, and ask what is required to buy and own a rifle or a handgun, and report their findings to class.