Could a firearm registry halt Ottawa's rising gun violence?

After a brazen daylight shooting on the weekend, Ottawa's mayor is welcoming proposed legislation that aims to tackle a growing problem with gun violence.

Man shot multiple times Saturday in city's 24th shooting of 2018

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he'd welcome federal legislation that would tighten firearms laws in Canada — but not everyone agrees. (Waterloo Regional Police Services)

After a brazen daylight shooting on the weekend, Ottawa's mayor is welcoming proposed legislation that aims to tackle a growing problem with gun violence.

On Saturday, a 35-year-old man was taken to hospital with serious injuries after being shot multiple times at a home near the city's Chinatown neighbourhood.

It was the city's 24th shooting of the year. By the same time in 2017, there were fewer than five shootings — but the city still ended the year with a record number.

"It's clearly not acceptable in a civil society to have this level of gun violence," said Mayor Jim Watson on Sunday.

Mayor Jim Watson says he welcomes any form of legislation that would help Ottawa tackle its spike in gun violence. (CBC News)

Watson said the city has hired 50 new police officers, partly to help deal with a spike in firearm-related incidents.

But residents need to take control of the situation as well, he said.

"If your 18-or-19-year-old son has no job and is driving around in a fancy car, there's probably something wrong with that picture," Watson said.

"And quite frankly, before that person is killed, we need to get them into some form of help — whether it's career counselling or college or a job apprenticeship. Because the lifespan of someone who lives in a gang is not that great, and they're causing too much harm and fear in our city."

Registries, background checks proposed

Last week, the federal Liberal government tabled a bill that would strengthen background checks for anyone wanting a firearms licence and require vendors to keep registries of all inventory and sales.

They would also have to maintain those records for 20 years.

Watson said that while he hasn't read the bill, he welcomes legislation that would help address gun violence.

"I'm obviously supportive of any initiative that tightens up control and prevents the use of illegal firearms, stolen firearms, firearms coming over the border," he said.

"Because those are the ones that are involved in drug deals and that are killing people — not just in the United States, but right here in Ottawa."

Police and paramedics are parked near the scene of a shooting on Anderson Street in Ottawa on March 24, 2018, that left a 35-year-old man with critical injuries. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Registry 'inefficient,' says gun control expert

Not everyone is convinced the bill's provisions will make much of a difference.

While the registry might help police and government keep keep track of a firearm's first owner, it can't do much else, said Francis Langlois, a history professor at CEGEP Trois-Rivières who studies firearms issues in the United States.

Langlois said the proposed registry is inefficient because officers would still have to go to court to obtain a warrant for the information. 

"If the police [are] in a hurry, they won't be able to work rapidly," he said.

The registry would also only show new purchases, Langlois said, not firearms that people already own.

Langlois said he believes it would put undue burden on firearm vendors who will have to keep and maintain those records — and he has questions about what would happen if the vendor goes out of business, or the records are accidentally destroyed.

Mandatory record-keeping in Canada was done away with when the former Harper government made sweeping changes to the country's firearms regulations in 2012.