Is the gun registry a failure or a success?
by Dr. Gary Mauser, Ph.D.
Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies
Faculty of Business Administration
Simon Fraser University
Recent letters have shed little light on the question, even though they were stuffed with statistics. It’s time to compare competing claims.
Anti-gun zealots like Tim Quibley claim the registry is working because gun deaths have declined since the long-gun registry began in 2001.
The primary problem with this claim is that counting gun deaths is not an appropriate way to measure success.
Gun laws should improve public safety not just reduce one way of killing. Would Canadians be safer if murderers somehow abandoned guns for knives and bombs?
Gun death accounting ignores the problem of “substitution.” Eliminating just one of the many alternative weapons is not likely to reduce murders or suicides. Two examples illustrate this point.
First, in many countries where guns are banned, such as Mexico and the former Soviet Union, the murder rates are more than 10 times greater than in Canada.
Second, suicides in Canada involving shootings have dropped over the past few decades, while hangings have increased correspondingly so that there is little net change in overall suicide rate. You decide: does this make the gun registry a success?
One of the original justifications for the gun registry was that it would protect vulnerable women. Unfortunately, no changes are seen: more domestic murders continue to be committed with kitchen knives than with firearms.
The best measures to use in evaluating the gun registry are murder and suicide rates. The statistics are unequivocal: the gun registry has not had a meaningful impact on either one.
The homicide rate had fallen impressively before 2001 but has remained relatively stable since. Due primarily to a booming economy and an aging population, the homicide rate slipped from 2.7 per 100,000 in 1991 to 1.8 in 2000.
After the long-gun registry was introduced, the homicide rate had risen to 2.0 by 2005.
The gun registry has failed to improve public safety.
It is time we stopped wasting money on harassing hunters and target shooters.
We should focus on jailing violent criminals and repeat offenders.
Study after study has shown that almost all (85% to 99%) guns used by criminals are smuggled into Canada and have never been registered.
The Conservatives under Stephen Harper are introducing laws that will actually improve public safety.
Research backs up common sense; putting violent criminals and repeat offenders in jail longer significantly reduces crime rates.
Liberals continue to be more concerned with the rights of criminals than the safety of Canadians.
Originally published at North Shore Outlook, 7-23-09