Most Canadians will be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about following this week’s vote on the long-gun registry.
The Conservative government appears hell bent on scrapping the program, but can’t express a rational opinion why they want to do so. Stephen Harper has had the gun registry in his sights since his days in opposition. Upon becoming prime minister in 2006, he quickly set about angling for its demise. Why? The best we can fathom is that it’s based on libertarian ideology.
There is a natural revulsion, of course, over how the registry came to exist in the first place. The idea was fine – at least to most Canadians – but the execution was anything but. Originally slated to cost about $2 million, the program sucked in more than $1 billion before it was even operational. It was expected to be a break-even proposition, but operating costs are now $4 million annually. But getting rid of it now would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The wasteful program should have been scrapped years ago, before taxpayers were gouged for its creation. But we have it now, and it’s arguably been of some use – murders with long guns dropped to 34 in 2008 from 61 in 1995 when the registry was introduced – and police organizations are in support of it.
Legitimate gun owners, particularly those in rural areas, have chafed at the imposition of yet another layer of paperwork and expense. Those feelings are not without merit. There are already measures in place to monitor gun ownership. And, in typical government fashion, the registry has been another bureaucratic headache for citizens who complain the program does nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, who, after all, don’t register their weapons.
Still, with the program in place, the best option is to make it as useful as possible. The goal, and the only reason to support the registry, is to make us safer … or at least to feel that way.
Urban Canadians are increasingly worried about crime. Violence is a particular bogeyman. With every incident, particularly the horrific shooting sprees that seem to occur more often these days, there are more calls for further restrictions on gun ownership, a perfectly understandable reaction.
On the other side of the argument, gun advocates will argue for greater access to guns, saying armed civilians could have gunned down such criminals before their killing sprees continued.
The latter arguments are commonplace in the U.S., where second amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – issues abound. In Canada, the notion seems ridiculous: having more guns at hand increases the risk. It would be far more likely for someone to see red, snap and use a readily available gun than it would be for someone to be faced with a murderer on a shooting rampage.
While Canada and the U.S. have comparable rates of homicides without guns (1.79 per 100,000 versus 1.35), the American firearm homicide rate is five times Canada’s (3.8 versus. 0.69 per 100.000); the U.S. handgun homicide rate is seven times Canada’s (2.83 versus 0.39 per 100,000).
The registry, while a fiasco to begin with, is clearly no reason to diminish real and effective gun controls. It’s time for Harper to move on to far more pressing issues.