Save the Long Gun Registry

In Canada, there is a law requiring the registration of all firearms, with a period of amnesty having been provided for failure to register hunting rifles and other “long guns”. The amnesty period is due to expire in May, and parliament is now considering a private member’s bill to permanently scrap the long gun registry.

This registry is opposed as an unnecessary imposition by many, especially in rural areas, and the minority Conservative government is supporting the bill for its abolition.

But guns of all kinds are at least as dangerous as cars, which most of us happily accept the need to register already so why should we not register guns as well? All guns do have the potential to be used in crimes, especially ones of domestic violence, and also to cause injury and death in accidents. When such things happen it is important for it to be as easy as possible to trace the weapon involved and, just as for motor vehicles, a registry of responsible ownership is a natural tool for this.

One person responded negatively to a request for support for maintaining the registry with an email that included the following:

“In each instance where gun laws were enacted; restricting ownership of, use of or registration of firearms, gun crimes are seen to INCREASE.”


“Since you appear uninformed let me say that in the last 20 or so years gun deaths in Canada average about 1000 persons per year . Unchanged since before and after the registry ( despite increase in population base).”

Not only do these two statements appear, on a superficial reading, to be contradictory, but the latter (no increase in gun deaths despite the increase in population) implies a REDUCTION in per capita gun deaths following introduction of the registry.

Perhaps the increase in “gun crimes” includes people with unregistered weapons getting stopped BEFORE they kill people!

Much of the rest of the reply involved repeated statements of concern about being left vulnerable when “they” take away our guns, but these concerns are overstated (to say the least) for a number of reasons:
1. Leaving a few rifles in the hands of farmers and hunters will not protect any of us from a well armed military dictatorship should one ever arise;
2. Unless we all walk around like Afghan tribesmen, having a gun (already illegal if concealed) will not protect us from street crime; and most significantly
3. There is actually NO INTENT to confiscate the weapons, and to suggest that there is is as ridiculous as saying that automobile licensing is the first step in a plan to take away our cars.

Speaking again of cars, it is popular among opponents of the gun regisry to claim that the money it costs could be better spent on programs to improve road safety. To which I respond “Please do so, as these are certainly not what I would cut in order to pay for the gun registry, and to suggest that these are the only two alternatives is clearly creating a false dichotomy”. There are lots of other less meritorious expenditures in the government’s budget which might well be cut back or cancelled in order to provide for both the gun registry and car safety and whatever else gets thrown up as the “more important” item.

A couple of examples that come to mind as things we really can afford to dispense with are the new jails that are being planned to house people who get convicted for unreported crimes (yes, that is effectively what the minister responsible said they were for!), and the expnditure without any bidding process of the first $9 Billion of a potential $18 Billion for new fighter jets for the air force.

And speaking of money, when we are talking of continuation or otherwise of the gun registry, it is only the future costs which would be recoverable, so complaining about alleged misspending in the process of establishing of the registry don’t add any weight to the argument for its abandonment.

Certainly the government’s decision to forego $15 million per year in forgiven registration fees is an odd response to the perception of having just dropped $2 Billion due to creative mismanagement (if not outright fraud).

A loss of $2Billion due to misadministration in the licensing of motor vehicles would be just as unfortunate as that apparently wasted in seting up the gun registry, but it would be as silly to abandon the registry because of this as it would be to abandon the registration of motor vehicles if some similar screw up had hapened in that department.

Similarly, there may well be aspects of the gun registry legislation that are unfair and/or unnecessarily onerous – but it would be as silly to abandon it on their account (rather than just fixing them) as to abandon auto licensing just because the current structure of fees and penalties were perceived as inequitable.

Guns, like cars are potentially dangerous, and so need to be traceable, both to help with investigation and prosecution for their use in crime, and to preclude evasion of responsibility in case of accident.

What on earth could be unclear or controversial about this?

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