Bang, Bang, Bang

Graphic Ginger Coons

On Wednesday Sept. 22, the Long Gun Registry survived as Paliament voted down Bill C-391—a motion to kill the law—by a slim margin. The Long Gun Registry is still under intense debate.

Kill Bill C-391

153 Members of Parliament were for the Long Gun Registry and voted against Bill C-391.

“Boondoggle” was practically coined with the long-gun registry in mind. Its critics argue that it has saved no lives and produced little benefit.

But what’s been buried in the vast spin this issue has suffered is the fact that the program produced tangible benefits and is an important way of keeping track of weapons, and continues to do so every year in this country.

The registry’s detractors have been quite successful at pitching long-guns as tools like any other for rural Canadians, undeserving of the scrutiny or hassle of forced registration. However, they’re used in domestic homicides 71 per cent of the time, according to Statistics Canada, largely because they’re so close at hand.

On the other hand, spousal homicide has been trending downwards for the last decade, most likely because of the impact of the gun registry. Canadian police forces consult the database around 11,000 times a day, and are able to respond better to domestic violence calls because of it.

The best evidence we have is an RCMP report on the program, commissioned externally and completed in February. Among other things, leaked portions that surfaced last week before Wednesday’s vote pointed out that management costs are $3.6 million a year—a far cry from the billions of dollars cited by the registry’s detractors.

In a sign of the partisan brinksmanship contest the debate has turned into, the full contents have been withheld from Parliament and the public since then on an indefinite basis pending translation, according to the CBC.

Without all relevant hard data available to policymakers when a vote is occurring, we can’t expect them to make smart decisions, and we can’t expect the public to pressure them responsibly. Gun control is an agreed upon precept of Canadian society. Seven million rifles and other weapons exist that would be covered under the program, the largest category of licensed firearms in the country.

The most substantial piece of data, however, remained conspicuously absent.

We should question the motives of a government that practices this kind of strategic information control at such key moments.

The same thing has happened with the abolition of the long-form census, the muzzling of federal research scientists and the painstakingly-detailed talking points that every federal agency and employee must dance to on command.

The lack of data serves their interests by muddying the waters, exploiting ignorance and stirring discord over an important public safety effort.

If data comes along showing that the gun registry is not worth the expense in lives saved and benefits to society, then maybe we should let it go. However, all we really need is to sit down and have a real debate. Until then, the registry should stay in place.

Registry Misses Target

151 Members of Parliament were against the Long Gun Registry and voted for Bill C-391.

Growing up in Alberta, I never thought of a rifle in a threatening manner.

I grew up riding around in my father’s pick-up truck with a .22 calibre rifle in the backseat. We used to drive down to an uninhabited piece of land, find a bank and line-up cans to shoot at. Often, we’d see another father/son duo doing the same thing.

A rifle wasn’t a weapon of mass killing to us. It was a test of patience and due diligence. Make sure no one’s in the line of fire. Push the safety when you’re done shooting. Point the rifle down to the dirt when you’re loading it and never ever point the gun at someone for play or you’ll get your ass kicked.

There was never a crazy button on the gun that magically transformed the person holding it into a blood-lusting freak, despite what some mainstream media would have you believe.

Talking from my own experiences, people seem to be hoplophobic—or afraid of guns—in the east when compared to the west of Canada, and maybe for good reason. Being affected by such disasters as the 1989 Polytechnique massacre and the Dawson College shooting gives justification to their fear of guns.

But it doesn’t give reason to put the blame on the laws instead of the troubled individuals that lacked proper counseling and a support base.

Although I do feel deeply for victims of the Dawson College shooting, I do feel that pulling on their heartstrings are misguided, especially considering the perpetrator used registered guns.

Instead of worrying about who has the guns, we should worry about who can have the guns. Perhaps the substantial amount of money saved after abolishing the bloated law can go into supporting under-funded and neglected Canadian mental health institutions.

Perhaps social change starts at the grassroots level of gun laws, like Bill C-68, a law that prohibits the ownership of a gun without a license. To obtain a firearms license, one should have to go through a formal psychological screening. As of now, garnering a firearms license is as easy as downloading a form off of the internet and dropping it off at your nearest governmental office. Everyone seems to forget the most obvious of sayings: guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

According to numerous news reports, the long-gun registry costs up to a billion dollars to maintain. The law is overkill (no pun intended), and really does not prevent gun crimes from happening.

Bill C-68 is a sufficient enough law to point out households with gun owners. Besides, does it really matter what type of gun someone has? This is not a first person shooter game. The average gun holder is not a marksman and each bullet doesn’t attribute more or less damage to your health gauge.

More education regarding gun safety and gun control should be readily available in forms differing from crime reports and fear-mongering news stories.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 07, published September 28, 2010.