Long-gun not short on talk

On Wednesday, the House of Commons will vote to decide the future of the long-gun registry in Canada. The Queen’s University Liberal and Conservative Associations weigh in on the vote.

Chris Jackson, ArtSci ’12
Chris Jackson, ArtSci ’12
Dan Osborne, ArtSci ’12
Dan Osborne, ArtSci ’12

The governing Conservatives argue the long-gun registry is a wasteful, billion dollar program that does nothing to stop crime.

Since when does “trimming the fat of government spending” involve endangering the lives of the men and women who protect our community? Or the citizens of Canada?

What happens if the Conservatives succeed in scrapping the registry?

In the past decade, 14 of 16 police officer deaths were the result of long-guns. A report by the RCMP in February, 2010 notes that the long-gun program is “cost effective, efficient and an important tool for law enforcement.” In addition to being instrumental in assisting police officers, the program operates at an annual cost of $1.1 million to $3.6 million per year, which is significantly less than the one billion dollar figure supposed by this government.

Many groups, especially those whose profession involves frontline experience, have reported the usefulness of the long-gun registry. 82 per cent of officers nationwide support the gun registry and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Police Boards all unanimously oppose the scrapping of the long-gun registry. RCMP Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak, charged with heading the gun registry program, was recently sent to French training after advocating for the preservation of the registry.

To underscore the importance of this program, law enforcement officials around Canada use the registry 11,000 times daily to keep Canadians safe.

Furthermore, women’s groups and victims’ groups have urged the government to keep the registry.

In spousal homicides involving firearms, two-thirds of the murders are committed with long-guns.

The Official Opposition wants to save the long-gun registry and is offering solutions to deal with some of the issues in the program.

The Liberal Party proposes that first-time failures to register firearms would be treated as a simple, non-criminal, ticketed offence.

Moreover, the Opposition proposes eliminating fees for new licenses, renewals and upgrades.

The idea is to build upon a system that keeps homes, communities and schools safe rather than destroying it because of a few problems.

The memories of the Montréal massacre two decades ago still scar Canadians and serve as a reminder to keep our communities safe.

On December 6, 1989, the shooting of 14 women at L’École Polytechnique de Montréal involved an unlisted, unregistered and uncontrolled long-gun.

The response to this horrendous act was the long-gun registry. Recently, Suzanne Laplante-

Edward, one of the victims’ mothers, insisted that the long-gun registry was the “one good thing that came out of the Montréal tragedy” and is a “monument to the memory of our daughters.” This government’s decision to scrap the registry is not a prudent choice.

As with climate change, the census and local issues such as prison farms, the Conservative government is ruling by ideology instead of looking at the facts.

The long-gun registry saves lives, helps in the apprehension of criminals and is supported by victims’ groups, E.R. doctors and police officers. The cost of the registry is a small price to pay to keep not only the men and women who protect our neighbourhood safe, but also our friends, families and children. 

This government fails to realize that the gun registry is a valuable tool for justice.

A majority of the Canadian public has already shown their support for the long-gun registry.

Will the government be responsive to its people?

Chris Jackson is director of policy for the Queen’s University Liberal Association

The Opposition argues the long-gun registry is a valuable tool for law enforcement that helps keep Canadians safe, and is well worth its price tag. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Canadians are a compassionate people and it was with this compassion that the long-gun registry was introduced.

Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government claimed that the Canadian Firearm Registry would reduce murder and violent crime in Canada and prevent a repeat of the L’École Polytechnique de Montréal Massacre or the Concordia University Shooting.

It has failed on all counts. Since the registry’s introduction, the murder rate has hardly changed and the Dawson College shooting occurred.

Guns do not create crime, and gun registries do not stop murder. Socio-economic issues, mental health problems and the influence of drugs and/or alcohol have a more substantial influence on violent crime.

A number of international studies have shown that countries which have introduced gun registries have not seen a fall in the murder rate or the incidence of violent crime.

Until the introduction of the gun registry, the murder rate in Canada had been falling. It has now stagnated.

Since England and Wales banned handguns in 1996 the homicide rate has increased.

Jamaica and Ireland, which banned firearms completely in the early ’70s, have seen their murder rates increase four-fold and six-fold respectively in spite of their gun prohibitions.

The registry in Canada hasn’t affected the murder rate. It has merely changed the primary tools used in murder and violent crime.

Human ingenuity will always find new ways to commit acts of violence.

Instead of using a rifle or a shotgun, Canadians use knives or illegally purchased and smuggled handguns.

The registry has even failed at tracking weapons used in crimes.

Before the registry, a gun might have had a credit card number associated with it. Now it has a filed-down serial number.

Proponents of the registry claim that it is accessed 11,000 times a day by law enforcement officials, but they won’t tell you that almost 8,000 of these are merely to check somebody’s name, and almost 3,000 are to check an address.

On average, the registry was used less than 20 times a day for checking a registration certificate in 2009.

In 1994, the government estimated a new long-gun registry would cost Canadian taxpayers a total of $2 million per year.

It is now predicted the registry will have cost $2 billion by 2012.

Appearing before the House of Commons Public Safety Committee, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimated the annual cost of the registry to be $106 million.

This money could be used for one of any number of government imperatives, from expanding social programs to cutting taxes.

Instead, it is being used to fund a program that gives bureaucrats and pencil-pushers in Ottawa something to do.

If that were not enough, thousands of otherwise law abiding Canadians have been made criminals and had their privacy invaded.

It’s time to stop picking on innocent Canadian hunters, farmers, and northern and Aboriginal communities, so we can target the real criminals in our country.

It’s time to abolish the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry.

Dan Osborne is director of policy for the Queen’s University Conservative Association

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