I didn’t think it would happen. I thought we were stuck with an incredibly flawed, national, long-gun registration system for the foreseeable future. Unless the Conservatives (the only party to support scrapping the registry) could gain enough seats in the Canadian Parliament to form a majority government (highly unlikely in our divisive political environment), we firearms owners were just going to have to suck-it-up and suppress our frustration. Then back in November of 2009, a private member’s bill (C-391) to scrap the registry passed second reading in the House of Commons (second reading indicates the House agrees in principle with the bill and sends it to committee for hearings and clarification before its finally voted into law). Like many firearms owners across Canada, I rejoiced that common sense had finally prevailed and the facts about the efficacy of the system were being heard by those that make the decisions.
Why did this come to pass? Well I believe the credit goes to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who made well publicized seizures of firearms from otherwise law-abiding citizens of Toronto who had failed to renew their firearms licences (when many had not been notified or their paperwork had been lost—apparently a common occurrence with the registry). That sparked an avalanche of e-mail, blog and twitter-posts from the conspiracy theorists amongst firearms owners, using Chief Blair’s handy example of why the registry must go. I’m sure many rural Members of Parliament (MP) took notice.
Now, our Conservative government is in a minority position in Parliament where they require the cooperation of some members of the opposition parties to get legislation passed. So, the passage of any legislation is not guaranteed. As a result, a highly orchestrated campaign by pro-registry groups and some opposition parties resulted in a motion being passed in committee that would kill Bill C-391. Because this motion arose in committee, the motion must be passed by the House as a whole. That vote is scheduled for September 22. If the motion passes, the bill is killed; if the motion is defeated the bill will go to third reading and final vote before parliament.
So, the battle is engaged. The 20 MPs that broke ranks with their parties to support the bill to abolish the registry are being inundated with e-mails, letters and phone calls to either continue their support for C-391 or vote to kill it. To further complicate matters, the Leader of the Liberal Party has “cracked the whip” requiring all its members (including the eight that voted to abolish) to vote to keep the registry. Some members of the New Democrat Party (whose policy is not to “whip” votes on private member’s bills) have buckled under the pressure and have stated they will vote to keep the registry. Others are holding their positions or considering not showing up for the vote. At last count the vote to kill the bill will be very close.
This has been a very divisive issue that tends to fall on geographic/demographic fault lines, e.g., rural vs. urban, west vs. east. This is unfortunate, as emotion often gets in the way of seeking and understanding the facts and actually address the issues that concern us all.
I have opposed this registry from its inception and have researched and written about it since 1998. In summary, my objections to the gun registry are as follows:
1) It has not, does not and will not reduce crime. Long guns are not the weapons of choice of criminals. In the few crimes that have occurred with long-guns, the registry would not have stopped them.
2) Most criminals prefer handguns (already under severe restriction and requiring registration) or fully automatic assault rifles (prohibited weapons) both of which are readily available on the black market. As long as we share an undefended border with a nation that does not register its firearms, they will freely come across to be sold to anyone who wants them. Registration will not solve this problem and will not reduce crime.
3) The information in the system cannot be relied upon. No verification was required in the initial registrations, so things like glue and caulking guns, etc. were registered. Also, I can loan a firearm to anyone who has a valid firearms licence, for any length of time, without telling anyone else. That information is not recorded. So, just because a person is not shown on the system to possess firearms, does not mean he or she does not possess them. They might, and perfectly legally. As well, someone who disrespects the law might also hold firearms illegally. No police officer is going to change how he or she approaches a situation because of the firearms registration system.
4) Further to the above, most police officers in the field ignore the firearms registration system. This was confirmed in straw poll of officers from across the country and by my own conversations with peace officers of various stripes. The 11,000 hits per day that Chief Blair trots out at every opportunity are the hits on the communications system that includes fingerprints, criminal records of suspects, etc. The firearms system is only rarely used when actual firearms are being investigated.
5) It is a colossal waste of taxpayers money. It cost nearly 2 BILLION (2000 million) dollars to implement and it costs anywhere from 4 to 20 million dollars a year (depending on whom you believe) to maintain. Think of what could have been done with that money to actually address gun violence: e.g. better control of imported weapons; studies and actions against the root causes of violence; more, better equipped and trained police officers; etc.
Here are some other articles explaining why the registry must go:
As well, Dr. Val Geist, a very respected wildlife biologist, fears the registry is helping society further separate itself from its understanding of and dependence upon nature: http://bit.ly/bKZHyZ
Not Opposed to Licensing
I should make it clear that I am not talking about the firearms licensing system, which is a good idea. That system ensures that firearms owners are educated in the safe use of firearms and the law. I have taken the course (for myself and once with my daughter) and use the licence to acquire firearms and borrow same from other lawful owners. My gripe is with the registration system. It was poorly thought out, poorly executed, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out how a government could allow 1 to 2 BILLION dollars be spent on a system that I’m told could have easily been built for 1 to 2 million dollars, and run much more efficiently. As I have stated from the start, the system was designed for failure and deserves to die.
So, what’s wrong with that?