Gun registry should be shot down

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Registry doesn’t do anything to help protect Canadians

by Dylan Shott
The Gateway, University of Alberta

Thanks to intervention by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, feeble gun-control measures may survive what should have been a fatal blow. A private member’s bill currently being sent through the House of Commons aims to abolish the long-gun registry, which was established under the 1995 Liberal government. The new bill, C-391, passed first and second readings in the House, and was to go through its third reading as a free vote.

But the corruption of democracy reared its ugly head when Ignatieff decided he would whip the vote. It’s contemptible to see MPs ignoring the wishes of their constituents, an unyielding leader dictating policy on private members’ bills, and the continuation of the $2-billion boondoggle that is the failed long-gun registry.Bill C-391 only seeks to get rid of the registration of non-restricted long guns like duck guns and deer rifles. Handguns and some military-style rifles will continue to be restricted and registered, as they have been since 1934. The media likes to confuse registration with licensing, when the two are in fact completely different issues. It makes using scare tactics that much easier, suggesting that any lunatic can buy a gun and shoot up a mall. As a proud firearm owner, I had to pay about $200 to get my license, take a course on Canadian regulations and general firearm handling and safety, and pass a test for each class of firearms. I also had to get an RCMP background check, submit character references, and wait several months for my license card to be mailed before I could start enjoying sport shooting.

Bill C-391 doesn’t seek to change anything to do with licensing. It would simply eliminate a bloated, ill-managed, costly, and intrusive firearms database whose sole useful aim is confiscation and which has never been demonstrated to prevent crime.

Some defenders of the registry have argued that if it saves one life, it’s worth it. But at the cost of $2 billion and rising, there’s little evidence that the registry has saved even a single life. Some repeatedly misinterpreted statistics are used to claim that suicides with firearms are down since the registry was implemented. This is technically true, but the suicide rate itself is unchanged — only the method has been altered. Besides, firearm-related suicides began declining 15 years prior to the registry.

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If the money we’ve spent on the gun registry had been put towards saving lives, that $2 billion could have built and supported women’s shelters, or provided psychiatric help to people suffering from depression. We could have invested in early disease detection, or better outfitted our soldiers in the Middle East.

Another misconception is that the registry keeps the police safe. But even Calgary Police Services Chief Rick Hanson states: “It’s not helping. The guns these people have, they don’t register, they don’t care, they’re probably stolen, they’re probably obtained illegally, in many cases they’re prohibited.” An officer can request a registry check on a house, but an indication that the homeowner doesn’t have a gun license isn’t an assurance of his safety.

Police officers on the front line know this, and some have had the courage to speak out. A poll conducted by Detective Randy Kuntz of the Edmonton Police Service showed only 189 officers from across Canada supported the long gun registry, while 2089 said it should be scrapped. Even Saskatchewan, as a matter of provincial policy, supports ditching the registry.

Take away guns, and people will use swords and clubs. It doesn’t make a difference. Society should examine what makes people want to hurt others or themselves in the first place. But simply banning things is easier, and gives the impression that one actually cares about public safety.

The registry doesn’t do anything to help protect Canadians, it takes away funds from other important sources, and hasn’t done anything to prevent crime. Instead of fostering fear, people should become familiar with firearms. Once we start to realize that they aren’t mystical items whose sole purpose is to aid and abet crimes, we can start putting money and effort into the things that will actually make this country a safer place to live.

Dylan Shott is studying Biological Sciences and Earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta.


Originally published in The Gateway, official student paper of the University of Alberta, 19 May 2010.

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