Jul 212011
 

from this morning’s National Post:

Put the gun registry out of its misery

National Post · Jul. 21, 2011 | Last Updated: Jul. 21, 2011 2:10 AM ET

The federal Conservatives have confirmed that the contentious long-gun registry will be scrapped this fall. Speaking with Postmedia News, Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner said: “Everyone knows it’s been part of our party’s policy for many years, and the Prime Minister committed to Canadians during the election we would scrap the longgun registry.. Canadians can expect to see [the legislation] fairly early on in the fall.”

We support this move. The long-gun registry, which has been with us for a decade, should never have been created. There was no convincing explanation as to how a database of serial numbers and street addresses was supposed to improve public safety. Gun crime is a real problem. But the criminals who kill people with guns generally are using illegal handguns smuggled in from the United States – not legally registered rifles and shotguns.

Once established, the registry not only proved to be expensive and errorprone, it drove a wedge between police and lawful Canadian firearms owners, who became justifiably frustrated at being deemed public safety risks simply because they owned a firearm. The Liberals’ hysterical insistence that harassing duck hunters and sport shooters was somehow necessary to pay proper homage to the victims of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre (which wouldn’t have been prevented with a registry anyway) has been particularly grating. Scrapping the registry will remove such irritants, and is worth doing for that reason alone.

This move, we hope, will help restore badly needed perspective to the gun-control debate. Contrary to what supporters of the registry might believe, Canada’s firearm owners generally recognize the importance of strong, effective gun-control laws that strike the right balance between keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the emotionally unstable while allowing law-abiding citizens to hunt and participate in shooting sports without social stigma. Canada’s pre-1995 firearms licensing system, combined with harsher punishments for those who use firearms while committing crimes, adequately address those needs. The registry has always been a distraction that offered only an illusion of safety, one we will do well to be rid of.

In a free and open society, there will be occasional acts of random violence. That is tragic, but cannot be changed through regulation and additional layers of bureaucracy. Yet the Liberals consistently have traded on the false notion that the registry could prevent future tragedies. And to this day, Liberal safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia declares that his party will vote unanimously to preserve the long-gun registry.

And what are we to make of Liberal MP Scott Simms, who had previously supported calls for the registry to be scrapped? In 2010, he tearfully shared with his caucus colleagues the sad story of his father’s suicide-by-rifle, and changed his vote to support the preservation of the registry. But Mr. Simms himself acknowledges that the registry could not have saved his father – so what does one have to do with the other?

The only principled opposition to the elimination of the long-gun registry has come from the New Democrats. In contrast to the Liberals, the NDP has promised to wait and review the Conservative bill to scrap the registry before deciding whether to oppose it. Given that the registry has always been popular in Quebec, where most of the NDP’s strength is currently based, it is likely that they will choose to vote to keep the registry, but the NDP has traditionally allowed its caucus members to vote their conscience on the issue. Last fall, while Mr. Simms and his Liberal colleagues voted en masse to preserve the registry, six NDP MPs voted to scrap it.

NDP leader Jack Layton – who himself will vote to keep the registry – deserves credit for at least giving members of his party the right to stand up for common sense.

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