This piece is the second part of a topic I started a few days back. I suggest you read part one before reading this half; I don’t intend today’s post to stand successfully alone.
This is not about long gun owners being targeted or “punished”: registration of shotguns and rifles is free and apparently quickly accomplished over the phone or internet. I do not see it as a punitive effort against gun owners. I see the Federal Long-Gun Registry as a misguided, expensive undertaking that does not significantly impact the problem it proposes solving.
The mandatory registration of handguns and restricted firearms makes sense to me. These are not “tools” in the sense that they have a purpose in the daily life of their owners. Sorry, little brother. That’s how I see it. It is specifically the long-gun registry that I would like to see abolished.
I have two primary issues with Canada’s Federal Long-Gun Registry:
One: As I discussed in the last post on this topic, the mandatory registration of rifles and shotguns by responsible citizens suggests, erroneously, that guns are always “weapons.” My argument is that long guns are tools that are used by nearly all their owners for lawful purposes.
Two: The Federal Long-Gun Registry uses tax dollars, at times in astronomical quantities, to create what I feel is a false sense of security for the public. While I recognize that the registry could potentially have a small impact on crime and violence, guns used for criminal purposes are highly unlikely to be registered.
Today’s post will deal almost entirely with my second concern.
Advocates of dissolving the long-gun registry have flooded media with reports on massive overspending. It is true that the original cost estimates for the registry were only two million dollars, but that the final bill to tax payers has been well over one billion dollars so far. The latest reports I could find on the registry report the annual maintenance price at just over four million Canadian dollars.
According to the statistics I found, the four million dollars to maintain the registry is a tiny percentage of the massive financial commitment required to enforce mandatory registration. For the most part, that enforcement effort goes to deal with people who have broken no law except for the laws regarding registering their rifles and shotguns and renewing those registrations.
The Federal Long-Gun Registry has been promoted as a means to make Canada a safer place to live. The focus on knowing where registered guns are draws attention away from the fact that nearly all the guns used as weapons in violent crimes are unregistered. This is not an issue for me of handguns versus rifle or shotgun. Records show that long guns are frequently used in violent crime. My concern is that we have been assured that registering the tools of law-abiding gun owners will reduce crime.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there are an estimated 1350-1600 Canadians killed in alcohol-related crashes each year. Compare this to the average gun-related homicide rate (in 2002) of 147 deaths. Note as well that the Canadian government fully admits that of the gun-related homicides on record since the inception of the Federal Long-Gun Registry, less than two percent of those deaths were caused by registered weapons. It stands to argue then that the registry itself has done little to reduce deaths by firearms in this country.
Many sources state that the majority of guns used for criminal purposes in Canada are smuggled in over the US border. If our government hopes to reduce the number of citizens hurt and killed by firearms, the illegal gun trade must be targeted.
What would reduce violent crime is to redirect the money that is currently being poured into the Federal Long-Gun Registry into improving law enforcement. Hiring and training more police officers would help to protect Canadians from a wider range of concerns, including the illegal firearms trade, drug manufacturing and sales, gangs, and other sources of major crime across the nation. Increasing the number of officers would also give local police departments the ability to address issues like impaired driving, which have a clear and significant impact on the safety of all Canadians.
Another way to address the use of firearms is to implement steeper punishments for those found guilty of violent crimes. As a tax payer, I would rather my dollars be used to keep people found guilty of a violent offense out of my community than to manage the rifles and shotguns of Canadians never found guilty of a crime. If individuals convicted of using guns were handed stricter sentences, with longer periods before they became eligible for parole, or if the possibility of parole were removed for more of the worst cases, those people would not be released back into Canadian communities, where they could be a risk for re-offending. Since the registry seems to rarely affect the crimes that are committed with weapons, something else must be done to actually impact the number of violent crimes involving firearms.
I’m interested to see what the Conservative government decides regarding this issue. Part of the federal campaign promise was to dissolve the long-gun part of the registry, but I sincerely hope that legislation occurs that could help to address the issue of violent crime in ways the Federal Long-Gun Registry has not. Simply abandoning ship on the registry is not going to solve any of the problems that the registry originally claimed it would address.
I won’t be writing such serious pieces very often. Come on back tomorrow for a post that might make you giggle.
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