A Few Words from the North: One Citizen's Thoughts on His Country's Gun Registry

Canadians have squared up on either side of “The Registry Issue” since its inception in 1977 but now with a decade of actual experience behind us and a September 22, 2010 vote narrowly defeating an initiative to repeal the long gun portion of the registry, the politics of the issue are now re-heating.

Canadians may have seemed self-righteous in times past about crime but now the reality of handgun violence has been forced upon us to the point that further public action is utterly unavoidable. To state it simply we have a gun registry that neither addresses public safety nor impacts the flood of illegal weapons on our streets.  Our Government has squandered large sums over the past decade to figure this out as the Registry has cost nearly $100 per Canadian since full phase-in and thus far, as crime increases, it has in relative terms protected our population from duck hunters.

We are a huge nation with a small population, less than that of California.  Accordingly we have a finite tax base and it is clearly identifiable from rises in crime that these public funds would have been better spent curbing gun smuggling and putting police officers on the street.  $3 billion buys a lot of cops for a country of 33 million.

Since 1892 a permit was required to own a gun in Canada.  All handguns have been restricted and registered since 1934; it was never really the Wild West in Canada because our Law Codes mimicked England.  Backed by national enforcement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the colonists who immigrated, mainly from Britain, were habituated to civil obedience.

The 2003 Registry necessitated the addition of 7 million private long guns; peculiarly half are weapons that present no ballistic fingerprint, often presented as a strong reason for a gun registry. And accommodating weapons without serial numbers is easy as a sticker is provided (am I the only one who sees loopholes the size of a Hummer?).

Most troubling however is that in the past decade organized gangs have identified an emerging market and established territory, something relatively new to us. An hourly handgun rental enterprise was reported in Toronto where drive-bys have become part of the broadcast news lexicon.  The port city of Vancouver leads the country in murders and in the smuggling of myriad unregistered handguns according to the Vancouver Police Strategic Plan 2004-2008.  This situation is mirrored in our other key ocean port Halifax.

Cross boarder smuggling of handguns has burgeoned since 2003 flouting Canada Customs and law enforcement.

•    Since the Registry was fully enacted there have been 2441 homicides in Canada.
•    1.9 % (47) attributable to registered long guns.
•    A number of these legal weapons were stolen and spousal violence was a minuscule aspect of the total.
•    94% of the guns recovered in the commission of a crime have been smuggled. (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics).

In 2008, across the country, there was just over 8000 instances of violent crime with 2.2% of those the result of guns. This is an epidemic to Canadians, but certainly not enough contagion to imprudently drop $ 3 billion.

Trend data show that the rate of firearm use in violent crime has remained stable since 2003. The overall rate of firearm-related violent crime driven primarily by the use of handguns, have accounted for about two-thirds of all firearm-related violent crimes each year since 1998.

Thus far it has cost the Canadian populace over $ 68 million per instance for those unfortunate homicides committed by stolen legal weapons. This will amortize but not rapidly with an annual Registry budget just south of $ 100 million.  In this perspective, I can’t help but see the registry as little more than a huge money pit: the data indicates that it has not been an effective deterrent against crime, it has been exceedingly expensive and, in a country that has had its own share of Columbines, it does not face the reality that you cannot legislate insanity.

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