What are your thoughts on ending the long-gun registry?

On Cross Country Checkup: the long-gun registry

It's all over for the contentious practice of registering shotguns and hunting rifles.

The Conservative majority government is carrying out its promise to kill the registry and delete the data.

What are your thoughts on the issue that has divided parties, regions and citizens?

With host Rex Murphy.

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Introduction

This past week in Parliament the Conservative government tabled a bill that would end the contentious long-gun registry law passed by the Liberal government of Jean Chretien in 1995 and implemented six years later. The law requires all licenced owners of shotguns and hunting rifles to register each weapon individually. Failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence. The law was part of a series of initiatives primarily motivated by what became known as the Montreal Massacre -- the shooting and killing of 14 female engineering students at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique in 1989.

Proponents of the registry said it would make Canadians safer because it would be easier to track guns. Critics said it was more likely to criminalize legal gun owners who would be bound by a further set of bureaucratic requirements concerning their guns. Some framed the issue as a standoff between rural Canadians who used guns daily as tools ....and urban Canadians who tended to view guns as a threat.

In operation, the registry continued to generate controversy when it overran its setup budget, originally estimated at $2-million dollars, and came by some estimates to be closer to $2-billion dollars, a thousand times more expensive.

Well, the Conservative majority in Parliament ensures that the bill will pass and that the registry will end and all the data collected to date will be erased.

It appears to bring to an end a divisive issue that has split parties, regions and citizens throughout the country. But it might not end here. Quebec premier Jean Charest has indicated an interest in using the data to start Quebec's own gun registry.

There is also the phenomenon of the debate itself. How strong the factions arguing various points felt, the seeming opposition of viewpoints from different sections of the country -- city versus country? It was a debate about guns, but it was also a debate that inevitably took on symbolic or emblematic qualities. Where you stood on the "gun registry" marked your politics. Why do you think the gun registry debate had this significance? Why was the debate - is it still -- so furious?

What do you think? Does this mean the end of the debate over whether to register shotguns and hunting rifles? It doesn't end gun control in Canada because there are several other checks on the ownership and usage of firearms. But does it weaken the protection offered by the overall body of gun control legislation in this country? Or does it merely bring the law back into line with the needs of people who use guns in their daily lives?

Our question today: "What are your thoughts on ending the long-gun registry?"

I'm Rex Murphy, on CBC Radio One, and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159, this is Cross Country Checkup.


 

Guests

  • Candice Hoeppner
    MP for Portage-Lisgar, Manitoba and Parliamentary Secretary for Public Safety. It was her private member's bill two years ago that introduced the motion to end the long-gun registry.

  • Peter Stoffer
    NDP MP for Sackville-Eastern Shore, Nova Scotia.

  • Michael Bryant
    Former Attorney-General of Ontario (2003-2007).




Links

CBC.ca

National Post

Globe and Mail

Ottawa Citizen

Montreal Gazette

Macleans

Toronto Star






E-mail

While there are rational arguments on either side of this debate, and all proferred by well-meaning people of all kinds, I feel that it has served its purpose if only to show that it isn't especially effective and efficient for what it was brought to fix. Really, if we all take a step back, we would accept that the previous purchasing regulations, which the police should have access to, and would share anyway, did as much to curb illicit use of firearms of all kinds. Besides, are Canadians an unimagination population that can't fine ways around the laws or the use of other handy implements meant to inflict bodily harm? Should we register those as well? Forgive the reductio ad absurdum, but surely you can see my point; it has long been stated as, "Where there's a will, there's a way."

Crandell Overton
Comox, British Columbia


I don't feel like a criminal when I register my car, why would a gun owner feel like a criminal for registering their gun?  Do gun owners in fact feel criminalized because of it or is it just a political wedge? Would it not be worth it if it saves one life?  Also, how can cancelling this registry save money if there is no net job loss once it is done away with? I obviously have more questions than answers.

Jonathan Wiebe
Huntsville, Ontario


Public safety Minister Toews said in his defense of scrapping the long-gun registry that "we don't want laws that target law-abiding citizens." By this logic, then, I shouldn't have to have my car registered - nor should most others. This example is to point out how foolish and selective and blind the Conservatives are on this issue. The police chiefs want this registry and Harper goes against them on this while claiming to be tough on crime. I predict that somewhere down the road the police will complain that the scrapping of the registry has led to loss of life. Gun owners need to show the kind of maturity that we expect of them by supporting the registry.

Mark Fornataro
Victoria, British Columbia


I find it truly astonishing that a government that claims to be a law and order government completely disregards the expertise of those who are in the best position to understand the issues: viz., police forces from across this nation and criminologists. On the other hand, this government is rapidly developing a reputation for not letting experts, including their own civil servants, influence them in any way.

Sharon Haggerty
Bowen Island, British Columbia


As someone who is about to be taught how to use a long gun,
1) Owning any gun long or otherwise is a privelige not a right in Canada.
2) Too many women have been shot by men who until they used the long gun on those women were thought to be "law abiding".
3) The registry does not stop any one from getting a gun but it is a valuable tool for police so that they can use the data base before they go into a area of risk, ie a domestic dispute
4) This would not be an issue if some Conservative politicians had had family members killed by a long gun by a family member or otherwise.

Claudette Shaw
Calgary, Alberta


Putting aside the need to register firearms the ownership of which must be controlled, let us consider the excessive cost overrun of the long gun registry. Even if we support this programme, it must be abolished if only for the fact of its cost. Any programme which goes so much over budget needs to be revisited because its implementation must be inherently flawed. If it is not working right it needs to be scrapped. Unfortunately, we will never get back this overrun. So much money could have been spent on improving law enforcement. I support the principle of registering firearms but not in the present programme.

Kelly Kirkman
LaSalle, Quebec


The registry's primary use comes in when it comes time to investigate a crime that was committed with a similar weapon, or -- perhaps more importantly -- when someone is released (either from prison or on bail) with the condition that this person turn over all firearms in his or her possession. Prior to the registry, officers had to rely on this person's goodwill; with the registry, they can at least gauge the minimum number of firearms that should be in police possession.

Yes, the registry is outdated; this is because in 2006 the Harper government granted gunowners amnesty from the registry. Yes, the registry was far more expensive than it ever should have been: on the other hand, scrapping it does nothing to recoup that cost; instead, it ensures that the entire exercise was in vain. It is also important to remember that there is no class of sub-human beings that can conveniently be labelled 'criminals' and separated from everyday people. It's not just 'bad people' that commit violent crimes; everyday and otherwise good people, when put in the right circumstances, fall to violence too. Remember that it is long-guns that are most often used in domestic situations. It is absolutely true that the registry itself does little or nothing to prevent gun crime -- but if anti-registrists are truly concerned about ending gun violence, then what we need are controls and measures far tougher than the registry (e.g. requiring that long-guns be stored at shooting ranges or police stations outside of hunting season). Very few anti-registrists would be happy with these more extreme measures, and so they should abandon the false concern.

Finally, I am very concerned about the proposal to destroy the information contained in the registry, since some of that information is being used as evidence in ongoing investigations, and destroying evidence is typically considered a crime.

Michel-Antoine Xhignesse
Montréal, Quebec


The Conservative government's argument that the Long Gun Registry unfairly targets 'law abiding citizens' is specious at best.  All citizens have the potential to commit criminal acts - whether they've abided by the law all their lives or not. It takes but one act by a heretofore 'law abiding' long gun owner to commit a crime with deadly consequences. This government wants to broaden police surveillance powers to see what Canadians are doing and saying online.  Yet it doesn't want police to know who owns long guns. This makes no sense.

Don Masters
Ottawa, Ontario


I am pleased to hear the Long Gun Registry is being scrapped. My experience with guns is through the Props in the Film Industry, including three degrees of safety courses. My opinion of firearms is that they are dangerous and must be handled and stored with great care. I think this is what we should focus on if we want fewer injuries/deaths from guns, not telling the Government who has what. Of course, only the honest people are accounted for; those with evil intent will always get their hands on firearms somehow. The Long Gun Registry does nothing to reduce crime-related gun injuries and deaths. So firearm safety education is where I think we should spend our money.

Jaye Gruspier
Winlaw, British Columbia


Things are registered for many reasons. Cars so they can be found if stolen or used carelessly or illegally. Real property, so people can buy and sell it with confidence. Births, to prove the existence and nationality of people and qualify them for all the benefits of Canadian citizenship. 

Registering anything does not take away from its benefits. Registering anything dangerous is a good thing. It gives responsible authorities the ability for input if unsuitable people try to buy it. I think registering weapons - including long guns - is a good thing for society. It's a "hot button" issue and as such been used by the Conservative Party to garner votes - as they have done with any like issues to gain the support of various interest groups in our society, and they do so with little disguised self interest. 

Dave Merritt
St. Albert, Alberta


I am a gun owner and I have happily registered all of my guns. Furthermore, I don't think that legislation should be made based solely on the opinions of those who own and use guns for legal and constructive reasons.

I work primarily in rural Alberta, and consequently I regularly drive as part of my job. This does not give me an enhanced opinion on whether automobiles should be registered, and although I would prefer to not pay to register my new truck, ensuring the safety of other Canadians dictates that I must. Despite the cost (caused mostly by the reluctance of opponents to the registry) I support the registry, because I contend that any tool that can be used to inflict serious and massive harm to individuals or property should be registered, as automobiles are.

I am also of the opinion that the majority of Canadians are not actually 'politically divided' by this issue as your introduction suggested. I think that the Conservative party has successfully exploited this issue to appeal to a noisy minority of Canadians while the rest of us moderates stood by, scratching our heads over why people seem to care about this reasonable legislation so much.

William Randers McClary
Calgary, Alberta


The talk about law-abiding people being slapped in the face for having to report how many guns they own, and what kinds, is a red herring. If they were indeed as respectful of the law as they claim, they wouldn't be so annoyed at having to register their guns. So there must be other reasons why they object to the long-gun registry. The kindest interpretation is that the die hard anti-gun-registry people seem to believe that they have some kind of right to own a gun. There is no such right in Canada. There never has been.

I own a gun, I registered it, I have no problem with that.

Wolf Kirchmeir
Blind River, Ontario


I am so pleased to hear that the long gun registry will be no more. Now, maybe my argument against the automobile registry will be next. The automobile registry has always made me feel like a criminal. Sure, cars are sometimes used in crimes, and sure, there are quite a few hit and runs, but we law-abiding automobile owners shouldn't have to register our cars just because of a bad few. After all, no one that is going to commit a crime using a car would use a legally registered car, they would use a stolen car or a car that flowed over the boarder from the USA. 

I don't care if the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is for the automobile registry, I have talked to literally dozens of people about this today, and not one of them even mentioned the need for a car registry. Rex, if that isn't evidence enough that the car registry is a case of government intrusion on private liberties, I don't know what is.

And how about that registry of live births? Talk about an intrusion on privacy. Why, we could wipe out identity theft in a day if we could just get rid of those pesky identities. 

I am glad to finally see the end of the long-gun debate, I just hope that the politicians do the right thing and get rid of the remaining registries that infringe on our rights.  I say, well done Candice! 

Kenneth Gourlay
Ottawa, Ontario


The vast majority of crime in this country is domestic violence. Police use the registry every time they receive a call about domestic violence to check whether there is a gun in the home. In the heat of anger anyone can grab a gun if it is handy. The registry at least lets the police know what they are walkng into.  The Registry can save their lives of police responders and impact the way they approach the situation thereby saving victim lives. 

People should check their facts. The majority of gun violence is not the criminals that make high profile news. More often than not it is a husband or other family member that goes out of control and shoots in the heat of anger.

We register dogs in this country. What is the big deal about registering your gun?

Barbara Jesson
Toronto, Ontario

The Registry cannot be relied upon to show the number of firearms that may be found at a given address. Licensed individuals may loan non-restricted firearms to, or borrow them from, other individuals with no changes made to the Blessed Registry.

Thus, a check of the Registry may show "x" number of firearms at an address, where there may be more, fewer, or none at all. To assume that the Registry is accurate at any given time in any given situation is playing Russian Roulette.

Axe the thing and put the money to better uses.

Brian Kempton
Regina, Saskatchewan

The annual operating cost is NOT $2 billion per year. It may have cost half that much to set up, but the ongoing operating costs are covered by gun registry fees. Talking about homeless, hungry people is a red herring.

Gun owners who register are not criminals any more than automobile owners are - yet society requires that all motor vehicles be registered - because of the possibility, nay PROBABILITY of accidents, injuries, death. 

How else to ensure owners, of guns or vehicles take responsibility whether the obligation is to keep a vehicle maintained in safe operating condition, or keeping their guns and ammunition locked up in a separate places. Mixing law-abiding gun owners, who are in the registry, with criminals is a red herring

Finally the destruction of existing registry records will (someday) rank in infamy with other political debacles such as canceling and destroying the Avro Arrow fighter plane.

K. A. Veerman
Okanagan, British Columbia

I am all for registering long guns, I have four and they are registered. The way I see it, the registry process was flawed. To register your guns took time and money, no big deal there, but then the government wanted you to re-register each year - that made no sense except to get more money out of people. The annual re-registry was a unnecessary and aggravating.

Once you're a registered gun owner, there is no reason to re-register. When you sell your guns, then you can inform Ottawa that you are no longer a gun owner. In the mean time you remain registered for whatever length of time you have your guns. If Ottawa hadn't gotten greedy, I'm sure there would not have been this backlash.

Mark Shepherd
Coquitlam, British Columbia

I am very disappointed with the end of the Long Gun Registry in Canada. In regards to this issue I am always surprised at the arguments made by opponents to the registry.
 
On the issue of the cost, the setup is the lion's share of the cost. Since those costs are behind us it seems like a moot point. We are throwing our money away to make a political point.
 
Another issue that amazes me is the long gun owners who claim to be law abiding yet choose not to register their guns. Already one of your callers has claimed that they have unregistered long guns and yet claimed to be law abiding. Since registering your gun is the law how can they make that claim? In our society it is not acceptable to obey just those laws that we like.
 
Finally, I am amazed at the indignance some people have of having to register a firearm. These things can and do kill many people. Is it really surprising that society wants these registered?

Kelly Bauman
Delta, British Columbia

It seems to me that had the registry been swiftly and efficiently set up by the government of the day, and had that government addressed some of the concerns that followed, this issue wouldn't have the traction that it has. The average urban conservative voter I suspect, cares little about gun ownership, but was deeply bothered by the spending on the start up. Beyond that, it is a very unimportant issue to most non-urban voters.

Michael Smith
Mississauga, Ontario

If the registry is closed then the database needs to be as well. Once the data is no longer updated it become historical data only; much like the last census is. The database was only accurate with regard to those long gun owners who registered their guns. That is not all long gun owners as compliance was questionable. The data base shows where the registered owners live, not necessarily where the guns were kept - it is permissible to store them elsewhere.

A big difference between census data and the registry is that the census contains de-identified information (not personal) while the registry contains a lot of personal information. Once the individual moves, sells their guns or gives them away the data is no longer accurate.

What the police need is a greater data base deveoped out of licenced guns which gives them much more data, including restricted guns.  Most criminals have guns outside the systems that exist so the registry is of limited value and is used as extra informaiton not as a primary source of informaiton.

Kathleen Pickard
Victoria, British Columbia

Guns have lost their practical place as a tool of every day living. Guns are more a symbol of masculinity and thus any threat to guns is an apparent attack on manliness.

Hunting is not a concrete argument against registering. New guns are licensed but there are tens of thousands of old guns floating around. I know lots of people who are against registering their "old" guns because they don't want to lose them or have people know they have them. We need more gun control, especially border control and mandatory minimums for amateur gun dealers.

The caller who said he sold guns from the states to his friends, specifically handguns should be hunted down and arrested, charged and prosecuted. If any weapon he "imported" hurt someone, he should be charged as an accessory.

Why do the Conservatives claim the police chief's opinion isn't important on this issue, but when the chiefs want an omnibus crime bill it's gods truth?  Hypocrisy. 

Robert Gagnon
Duncan, British Columbia

The Harper Conservatives have been successful in framing the debate around criminal activity using long guns, however, there is a compelling argument for tying a long gun owner to the long guns for which they must take responsibility and be accountable. An RCMP study in 1995 indicated that 49 people died of accidental death from a long gun, the report also estimated that 10 to 13 times that number of people sustain  serious injury from long guns accidentally due to improper storage, primarily with children and adolescents. That means over 500 Canadians each year will die or be injured because of improper storage of long guns. If the long gun registry ties the owner to the long gun through registration then they will be held accountable for its improper storage and use.  

Robin Wortman
Calgary, Alberta


Ending the long gun registry is a clear demonstration of ideology trumping common sense. Most citizens and law-enforcement agencies support the registry. The registry works, but the Conservatives intend to demonstrate that it's a costly waste and intend to make it so by destroying all the information gathered over the years so that other government will be reluctant to revive the issue.

The Conservatives and gun lovers would have you believe that the registry criminalizes gun owners. Utter rot. It no more criminalizes gun lovers than registering the automobile criminalizes drivers. In fact, registering guns makes gun lovers responsible for what happens to their weapons and how they are used. What's wrong with that?

Frank Pelaschuk
Alexandria, Ontario

Having worked in a major urban centre as a police officer, and now in a small rural area, the loss of the long gun registry is not of any concern to me. Some of your listeners fail to understand how easy it is for criminals to get their guns which were never registered in the first place, or if stolen, have their serial numbers removed. I don't rely on the registry for my safety when responding to domestics, and I look forward to seeing that money being wasted on the registry put towards more productive measures - more women's shelters and more officers on the streets are just two examples.

Rob Welsman
Clinton, Ontario


 

 


 

 

 


 

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