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Guns: What the proponents of fortress North America want you to forget

The Canadian proponents of Fortress North America want you to think about the prospect of speedier passage across the Canada-U.S. border for goods and people. They propose that we "thin" the border between the two countries and "fatten" it around Canada and the U.S. against the rest of the world.

The proponents are fond of calling up images of the ease of passage for motorists travelling between EU countries such as France and Germany. There, drivers are not required to stop at customs posts when crossing the border.

What the Fortress fanciers don't tell you is that the governments of European countries that removed border controls spent years assuring themselves in negotiations that they all had similar regulations for hazardous products before they opened their frontiers to one another. They weren't prepared to open the gates if one country had a more lax regime for hazardous products than the others.

The problem for Canadians is that we live next door to the gun capital of the world. In the U.S., home of the cherished Second Amendment, that gives Americans the right to bear arms, a wide range of handguns and high-powered, rapid-fire weapons, are legal products. Americans possess more than two hundred million guns. In some states such as Virginia, high-powered weapons, that are not legal in Canada, can be purchased with ease at gun shows.

Some U.S. states such as Massachusetts have much tougher gun laws than Virginia and other states from the old Confederacy. But those laws are of little use. Gun owners can just drive into Massachusetts with their weapons in tow. A high proportion of the gun crimes in New York City are committed with weapons brought into the city from Virginia.

Once, to observe the American gun culture up close, I enrolled in a gun-training course offered by Smith and Wesson in Springfield, Massachusetts. Many of the participants in the course were from out of state and they brought their firearms with them.

On the other hand, I've seen Canadian Customs officials seize the guns of Americans crossing into Canada. On one occasion at the crossing from Calais, Maine to St. Stephen, New Brunswick, I watched a Canadian official explain to the members of an American family that they'd have to leave their weapon with Customs and then pick it up on their return trip home.

Canada already has a serious gun problem. Over half the guns used in the commission of crimes in Canada have been illegally smuggled into the country from the United States. Most of the weapons smuggled from the U.S. are high-quality, semi-automatic handguns. Smugglers commonly place the guns in hidden compartments in their vehicles when they cross the border. Some duct-tape them to their bodies.

"Thinning" the border would be an invitation to criminals to import many more guns into Canada. Opening the border to the free passage of motorists with no customs stops -- EU style -- would effectively mean that Virginia's guns laws would apply in Canada. Today's Canadian gun problem would become a gun epidemic.

Presumably the attraction of Fortress North America is that crossing the border will be easier and quicker. But easier and quicker border crossings mean more U.S. illegal guns in Canada, the easier the crossing the greater the flow of weapons. That's axiomatic.

Of course, we could always try to convince Americans to abrogate the Second Amendment and join the civilized world on the matter of guns....

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