Barrie doctor, Brian Morris, promoting public health approach to firearms; says preventing damage better than fixing it

Day of Action planned for May 27

Doctors in Canada, including one from Barrie, are taking aim at tougher restrictions on handguns and assault weapons in this country.

Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) say firearm-related injuries or deaths, whether unintentional or intentional, are a preventable public health issue, and that they exact a huge cost upon society, beyond the physical and psychological burden of injuries for victims and their families.

Dr. Brian Morris, a semi-retired Barrie family physician, says being pro-active is the best approach to prevent firearm injuries and deaths.

“I’ve always thought that a pubic health approach to care is worthwhile,” said Dr. Morris, 66, who practised medicine in Barrie for 39 years. “It’s wonderful when a surgeon performs a heart transplant and saves one life, but boy, by advocating for seatbelts, we have saved thousands of lives.

“So that kind of public health approach, preventing an illness, preventing damage, to me has always made more sense than dramatically trying to rescue someone who has been injured,” he said. “To prevent the problem in the first place makes a whole lot of sense.”

CDPG is holding a National Day of Action May 27, 2020, at an as-yet-undisclosed location in the Barrie-area.

Peter Leon, corporate communications co-ordinator with Barrie Police Service, said this city has not escaped a Canada-wide trend.

“Sadly, like most communities, we too are seeing an increase in firearms-related incidents that involve replicas and actual firearms,” he said.

Research is clear that in countries with stricter gun ownership and safety laws, injury and mortality from guns are markedly less than in countries with less strict gun control legislation, CDPG says. Increased access to firearms also results in excess rates of suicide.

Dr. Morris was a coroner for a number of years and saw deaths by homicide or suicide.

“A large proportion of deaths in Canada that are due to guns are suicide, and there’s a direct link between the number of suicides by gun and number of guns in the population,” he said. “The more guns there are in a country, the more suicides by gun there are.”

So why are tougher gun restrictions not a high enough priority for the Canadian government?

“I think that all politicians are sensitive to the way the political winds blow, and they listen to both sides, and there is a gun lobby that feels strongly that organizations like (CDPG) are trying to take away their guns,” Dr. Morris said. “Our organization respects the fact that there are many, many Canadians who own guns and use them properly and legally.”

One example is Canadian farmers who use guns to get rid of varmints on their property.

“Our organization does not feel that those guns should be taken away from those people,” Dr. Morris said. “But on the other hand, handguns and military-style assault weapons have no use on a farm. They’re both designed to kill people.”

He says gun laws do matter, pointing to Australia and Scotland as nations which both introduced restrictive gun legislation, following mass shootings, nearly a quarter-century ago.

“Restrictive gun legislation works, and the international experience shows that,” Dr. Morris said.

CDPG is calling upon the federal government to address this public health crisis by way of two specific actions.

First is introducing legislation and other tools to reduce the prevalence of firearms – such as restrictions on gun ownership, an amnesty program to recover firearms currently in circulation, and a strategic approach to reduce the illegal sale of guns and the import of firearms from other jurisdictions, such as the United States.

Second is federal funding and infrastructure for research on the epidemiology of firearm injury and death including the role of societal determinants such as poverty, mental illness, racial discrimination and social isolation – as well as the effectiveness of strategies to reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths.

Peter Leon points to Project Shoreham as an excellent example of how law enforcement agencies are working together and collaborating, to rid communities and streets of those who wish to engage in any form of criminal activity.

Last November, it resulted in 279 Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) charges laid by Barrie police and OPP. Leon said street-level violence and organized crime have no place in any community and city police remain committed to the community and work diligently every day to ensure this. “The safety and the security of our citizens is our number one priority and we as a police service are well-positioned to see those who choose to use or possess a firearm in the commission of a criminal offence are held accountable for their actions,” he said.

For more information on CDPG, visit doctorsforprotectionfromguns.ca.