Friday, September 15, 2006

A deadly caricature...

As I read about Kimveer Gill, the gunman at Montreal's Dawson College yesterday, I can't help shaking my head at what a caricature he seems: "Metal and Goth kick ass", the "Trench" handle to go with his coat... And yet we must take him seriously.

My second thought followed on the heels of these three quotes:
Gill is believed to have been carrying at least three weapons: a handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun and a semi-automatic or automatic rifle.

He was armed with three weapons that media reports say were legally registered to him.

Neighbours told CBC Radio that Gill lived with his parents in the house.

His parents were "shocked", meaning they didn't know their son was amassing (and registering!) an arsenal of weapons to rival a Terminator. At least Harper isn't making any knee-jerk commitments; my initial thought is that this isn't a failing of legislation (at least not first): nobody needs that many guns.

Update: September 20: a related interview with the creator of the video game based on the Columbine shootings.

Update: October 2: Andrew Spicer suggested the idea of legislation that allows certain municipalities to ban certain firearms. I don't know whether that would work, but I do like the idea of formally recognizing that rural and urban municipalities have different concerns. I guess it could open us up to the confusion one can face crossing state borders down south, but, still, I feel the concept has merit.


Matthew said...

My initial thought upon reading your second thought (and before reading any of the links) was: What is our multi-billion dollar gun registry for again?

Yet I do have to disagree with you on your last point about no-one needing that many guns: While hunting may seem the cruelest of sports, it is a socially acceptable one. Ownership of guns for hunting is completely legal. And anyone who hunts for multiple types of prey would require multiple guns; one shotgun for partridge, one for duck, one rifle for deer, another for bear, moose, etc. And just for the record, I do not hunt.

But I do agree on one point: No-one needs an automatic weapon. But even without the automatic, this tragedy would still have occurred.

This sort of tragedy occurs more often than we'd like to admit. Most serial killers have friends, family, neighbours, co-workers, who are "shocked" to discover that good 'ole Jim had partly decayed bodies in his freezer.

How do we prevent one person from going psycho and hurting someone else. It has nothing to do with guns. Once you take away the guns, people can always use their cars to plow into a bunch of people at a bus stop. The weapon isn't the problem. The person is.

I say we put the blame where it belongs.

John said...

Thanks for breaking out the hunting point: I hadn't thought of that legitimate need for a shotgun. The "Beretta CX4 Storm semi-automatic rifle" is another story, as you say.

On blame, you're saying this is the price of living free then? Some people will act in an anti-social manner (in the extreme, in this case), and will subsequently be punished for it? That's where I'm leaning, anyway, as I dwell on it a bit more. That, and that parents need to be more involved in their children's lives (I say from my high childless pedestal, granted).

You know they'll be as many angles as you can count on this, though, even setting aside the gun-registry conflagration that's about to erupt. His reference to video games gives the Grand Theft Auto haters fresh ammo, the Internet censors'll be all over his blog...

John said...

More of my thoughts, tangentially related to this post, from an out-of-band conversation on the shooting:

I agree that there is a price to pay for living as we do, free to do as we please to such a great extent. However, as I think about this more, a couple of thoughts occur: most importantly, are we really seeing an increase in anti-social behaviour - in both the types of activity and the numbers perpetrating it - or an increase in the media covering it and our access to that sort of information in general? And, if it's the former, what are the major factors contributing to this increase?

I suspect we are seeing an increase in anti-social behaviour, and that some of the (significant, if not major) reasons for this are: 1) the diminishing role of the extended family (in North America specifically), and the downright isolation of many "normal" families (i.e., dad, mom and two kids; and that's it for family interaction in their daily lives) - I shamelessly stole this one from Vonnegut, by the way (he's had a lot to say on this subject in his later years); and 2) that young people have too many choices today, which is especially problematic in the more loosely-organized households.

But, again, that's just speculation on my part.

The second thought that's been rattling around in my head is that, assuming the previous increase, and assuming we successfully identify and start to address the contributing factors (*big* assumptions, I know, but bear with me), we still have to deal with the dysfunctional people we've produced to date (and will continue to produce, since no solution is perfect). And while I take your point concerning the difficulty in identifying them such that they can rightfully be detained, I see a couple of possibilities.

First, I think there is some merit in behavioural profiling, when it's done properly - poor behavioural profiling often descends to utterly useless racial profiling. I enjoy the example of Ahmed Ressam, who'd planned to attack the L.A. airport on the eve of the year 2000. An alert border guard noticed that Ressam seemed unusually uncomfortable - sweating profusely, etc. - as he attempted to enter Oregon from B.C. with his bomb components in the trunk of his car. Ressam ran and was apprehended months before he'd planned to attack.

Second, following on that, we need to design our security systems such that we maximize this sort of 'checkpoint' - in a looser sense of the word - with a properly trained individual or two. I don't know whether this is true, but, to bring this back to the events in Montreal, I read some information on how Gill's semi-automatic weapon is normally registered in Canada. There's supposedly a background check, training, etc. It seems to me that there should be some opportunity to sit down with this registrant and get a sense of where they're at, psychologically. A fifteen-minute interview as part of the background check, or even just a properly trained mental-health professional on hand, but in the background, of one of these training sessions. I haven't worked out the details, obviously, but it seems to me that if we're taking the time to ensure these potential gun owners meet certain criteria, mental health should fit in their somewhere (and not as a one-time check either).

Festering Weasel said...

I don't care how many or how fast the bunnys are, there is no need for automatic weapons for "recreational" gun enthusiasts. Automatics are meant for the killing fields not gun clubs and plinking cans and bottles off the fence. Instead of spending millions/billions on a gun registry (CGI of Montreal, prime contractor), why don't we have a cyber team surfing the Internet for websites like that of Gill's. Goggling images of guns, goths, etc. is cheaper than any database, plus we could have public servants do it for "free" instead of surfing

Besides, guns don't kill people, knives kill people, at least that has been the trend in the burg of Ottawa as of late. Maybe we need a knife registry?

On another point, Matthew is incorrect thinking that you need different guns for different types of game, vice prey, that is why there are different types of shot. One shotgun, with the appropriate choke and shot is all you need. For larger game, a higher calibre rifle is required, but this is mostly because the distance between the hunter and hunted. However, one high powered rifle (i.e. 306) is sufficient for most types of game. That said, not much of a sport when you are 400 - 1,000 metres away from the target, using a scope, etc. Plus the beer bags on most hunters have prevented them from seeing their dicks for years, so what chance would they have running from a pissed off bear and/or moose.

Hey dudes, want a real rush? Try bow hunting, where you need to get close enough to take a shot and if you don't happen to drop the bear, moose, etc. while you are trying to "reload" they are charging you with the intention of making you the "prey" and the best bet is to commit hari-kari with the arrow you are trying to restring.