POLICY GRIDLOCK VERSUS POLICY SHIFT IN GUN POLITICS: A Comparative Veto Player Analysis of Gun Control Policies in the United States and Canada/Bloqueo Politico Frente a Cambio De Politica En la Politica De Armas: Una Explication Comparativa De Veto Player Acerca De Las Politicas De Control De Armas En Los Estados Unidos Y Canada

By Kamal, Rifat Darina; Burton, Charles | World Affairs, Winter 2018 | Go to article overview

POLICY GRIDLOCK VERSUS POLICY SHIFT IN GUN POLITICS: A Comparative Veto Player Analysis of Gun Control Policies in the United States and Canada/Bloqueo Politico Frente a Cambio De Politica En la Politica De Armas: Una Explication Comparativa De Veto Player Acerca De Las Politicas De Control De Armas En Los Estados Unidos Y Canada


Kamal, Rifat Darina, Burton, Charles, World Affairs


The twentieth century's debate over gun control has long been a challenging and divisive issue in both the United States and Canada. Between 2001 and 2014, there were 440,095 deaths by firearms on U.S. territory (CNN 2016).(1) The Texas Church Shooting in 2017, the Las Vegas and Virginia Shootings of the same year, the 2016 Orlando Shooting, the 2015 San Bernardino Slaying, the Sandy Hook Massacre of 2012, and the 2007 Virginia Tech Killings are horrendous examples of recent mass murder by guns. Despite serious public debate in the wake of each atrocity, these high-profile incidents have not elicited a meaningful policy response by the U.S. federal government to mitigate the risk of continued gun violence. The U.S. firearms regulation legislation lags severely behind that of other developed nations. It is limited and weak in curtailing gun-related violence, injury, and death nationwide and the policy formulation process is sluggish and inefficient (Fleming 2012).

Despite Canada's relatively stringent gun control laws, there is a growing concern about the misuse of firearms in homicides and mass murders in Canada. Statistics published by the Department of Justice Canada (see Zhang 2012) show that, in 2008, Canada had approximately 8,710 police-reported incidents involving a firearm that affected 9,469 victims. The total economic and social costs of gun-related crime in Canada was $3.1 billion that same year, and "firearms were present in about one third of homicides (32.7%) and attempted murders (35.8%) in 2008" (Zhang 2012). While figures have fluctuated since, Statistics Canada reveals that, in 2016, "there were approximately 7,100 victims of violent crime where a firearm was present"--a 33 percent increase on 2013 figures and only 200 victims less than 2009 (Cotter 2018). The Toronto Van Attack in April 2018, the Quebec City Mosque shooting of 2017, the Vernon Massacre of 1996; the Yeo Inquest Shooting of 1992 the Concordia Shooting of the same year, and the Ecole Polytechnique Massacre in 1989 show that Canada is not immune to horrendous incidents of gun violence. But, unlike the United States, the Government of Canada has been able to make broad changes to gun control legislation in response to gun violence events.

This study presents a selective comparative analysis of four mass shootings and the way these have influenced gun control policies in the United States and Canada. The objective is to explore the reasons underpinning the distinct outcomes of the gun policies undertaken by these countries after a focusing event. It addresses the question of why major events of gun violence (i.e., mass shootings) led to incremental change or barely any federal legislative change at all in the United States while major gun violence events have resulted in large-scale legislative change in Canada at the federal level. We present a comparative small-N study that entails an analysis of four similar cases following a deductive approach guided by key principles of the veto player theory. Mostly based on qualitative methods, empirical data is employed to depict the rates of violence, homicide, public sentiment, and government actions to address the level of gun violence across both countries.

We begin by setting the country context in comparative international focus before laying out the theoretical framework. Next, we cover the salient details of each of the four case studies, and analyze each in view of the earlier theory. The discussion section develops key elements of the case studies and their relation to veto player theory. It also offers additional factors that the cases and contexts suggest should not be overlooked in explanations of why these countries experienced diverse policy outcomes in the way they did. The final section concludes.

Country Context

The issue of gun control in North American society frequently generates heated debate. However, the federal legislative response in the United States is significantly less impactful than the legislative response in Canada. …

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POLICY GRIDLOCK VERSUS POLICY SHIFT IN GUN POLITICS: A Comparative Veto Player Analysis of Gun Control Policies in the United States and Canada/Bloqueo Politico Frente a Cambio De Politica En la Politica De Armas: Una Explication Comparativa De Veto Player Acerca De Las Politicas De Control De Armas En Los Estados Unidos Y Canada
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