Thursday, April 29, 2010
Banning knives is pointless
KNIFE crime might be on the rise in Winnipeg, but banning blades won't help and amounts to a knee-jerk overreaction, say Winnipeg defence lawyers.
And it turns out the only province considering such a measure -- Saskatchewan -- pretty much agrees.
"We have not yet come up with legislation that we believe will be a workable and effective tool for police," said Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan Wednesday. "At this point, it's not on."
Statistics Canada data released earlier this week show Winnipeg leads the country in violent crimes involving a knife. More than 80 Winnipeggers have been killed with a knife since 1999 and more than 1,700 Manitobans were the victims of knife crimes in 2008 alone.
That prompted some to suggest Manitoba ought to follow Saskatchewan's lead and consider banning blades in public places or placing age restrictions on who can buy some kinds of knives. Saskatchewan started looking at legislation after a plea from Saskatoon's police chief, who is also grappling with a high rate of knife crime.
Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan was asked about Saskatchewan's idea and said he'd consider any interesting proposals. Provincial staff said the idea of a blade ban will likely be discussed at next month's gathering of provincial and federal justice ministers in Vancouver.
Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill echoed Swan, saying police are seeing more edged weapons used in crime and he's open to anything that could help police combat knife violence.
But McCaskill reserved judgment until he knows exactly what Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill is proposing and what the Saskatchewan government might do. McCaskill called Weighill Tuesday to ask for some details.
But Saskatchewan's justice experts have so far been unable to work out the kinks in any proposed legislation banning blades.
Prohibiting or restricting certain kinds of weapons is probably a federal issue under the Criminal Code, said Morgan. And any restrictions came with some unpalatable consequences. If you ban knives in public places, like parks, you risk penalizing families on picnics. If you ban the use of knives longer than a foot, that affects hunters and fishermen. And, said Morgan, it's not clear how legislation can stop one of the most typical crimes, a kitchen-knife stabbing at a house party.
Instead, Morgan said he's looking at ways to help his Crown prosecutors get more aggressive in charging suspects in knife-related crimes. He may ask Ottawa to toughen the penalties for knife crimes under the Criminal Code.
That's good news for two criminal defence lawyers, who say the idea of restrictions or bans on knives is fraught with problems exactly like the ones Saskatchewan has encountered.
"It's knee-jerk politicking at its very worst," said lawyer Danny Gunn.
So they think that banning knives in public is going to solve all problems and crimes? Sorry, but it wont. Just because something is banned per se, does not mean people wont still use knives in public. You can hide them on your body and police are not going to strip search every person. If someone gets in a fight, they could still just as easily, pull out their hidden knife and kill somebody. It's virtually un-enforceable. Plus, some people need knives in public, such as hunters and fishers. So how are they supposed to enforce that? They cant. Besides the most common type of knife used in knife related crime, is a kitchen knife and you certainly cant ban those. So banning knives would be pointless and really, I dont believe it would lead to any safer societies.