On The Gun Registry

The debate over Candace Hoeppner’s Private Member’s Bill C-391, abolishing the long gun registry in Canada is coming to a head as the bill goes to its third reading in the House of Commons. As if there was nothing better to be dealing with in this country, an inordinate amount of time and energy has gone into the debate from all sides and a lot of it has been silly. Time for me to weigh in one last time.

I remain in favour of getting rid of the registry because even at its relatively low cost (in comparison to the ridiculous set up costs) it still basically serves no particularly good purpose despite the hyperbole. That said there is little prospect of reasonable discussion because of the ridiculous amount of misinformation circulating. So I’m trying to clear as much as I can.

There’s been a lot of insinuation that getting rid of the registry somehow gets rid of firearms licensing and controls entirely. That’s rubbish. In no way is that the case. In fact, if we want to talk about “compromises”, many gun owners would probably be happy to see stricter licensing processes. I certainly would be fine with that.

Some of the letters to the editors of various papers contained other nonsense, including claims that the registry somehow prevents accidental shootings. There were two such claims in just one newspaper. I cannot fathom how anyone could believe this to be possible. Does a car being registered make it any less likely to be involved in an accident?

That ties to another point – the comparison to vehicle licensing. Vehicles are licensed for tax reasons, not for safety reasons, obviously a registration sticker purchased annually does not make a vehicle safe, though licensing drivers does help. That analogy is more reasonable.

I don’t buy into the idea that the long gun registry prevents domestic violence particularly well. From discussing with cops, when there is a domestic violence situation, the registry isn’t the key – a search warrant is. That won’t change. If I was a cop I wouldn’t be satisfied without a proper search.

Front-line cops almost universally find no value in the registry either. One survey, albeit unofficial, found 92% of cops find no value of the registry, and frankly they matter more than chiefs’ political organizations. Any cop who’d trust their safety to the long gun registry is, according to my veteran cop friend, a complete idiot.

Then there’s the event that spurred C-68 in the first place. The École Polytechnique mass shootings. The registry has proven itself ineffective in preventing such incidents. The Dawson College shooting showed that. The shooter, Kimveer Gill, was a licensed firearms owner with legal, registered firearms. If anything he supports the argument for more licensing scrutiny, and shows exactly how utterly useless the registry is.

Note that I’ve avoided the worst canard in the debate, the tremendous waste of some $2 billion on setting up the registry. I’ll note that some have disputed this and claimed that it was “only” $1 billion, as though that’s any better. However, that money is gone, it’s a sunk cost, nothing will ever get that money back. We don’t need to debate that. It’s pointless.

I remain unconvinced of any value the registry offers. There is room to improve Canada’s firearms laws, in ways that will draw consensus. The registry is not part of that consensus and need not be.

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