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Gun registry long on philosophy, short on practicality - Tom Fortin

By nature, I am not a political person. However, there have been many changes in our government policies over the past several years that are starting to make me think I should spend a little less time in my canoe.
By nature, I am not a political person. However, there have been many changes in our government policies over the past several years that are starting to make me think I should spend a little less time in my canoe.

This Monday, while wiping the sleep out of my eyes and enjoying a cup of java, I noticed on (Sudbury MP) Glenn Thibeault’s website that he had decided not to stand to have the gun registry scrapped in a vote later this September.

“I made up my mind based on what I was hearing from folks like Chief Elsner (Sudbury’s Police Chief ),” Thibeault stated in a news release.

I think I will start by letting former Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino express what I believe, as he stated in a press release in 2003:

“We have an ongoing gun crisis, including firearms-related homicides lately in Toronto, and a law registering firearms has neither deterred these crimes nor helped us solve any of them. None of the guns we know to have been used were registered, although we believe that more than half of them were smuggled into Canada from the United States. The firearms registry is long on philosophy and short on practical results considering the money could be more effectively used for security against terrorism as well as a host of other public safety initiatives.”

The Canadian Chiefs of Police constantly state the number of times the registry is accessed as justification for its existence. As of June 2010, the database was reportedly accessed 14,012 times per day. Only 530 (3.7 per cent) of those “hits” are specific to firearms registration (licence number, serial number and certificate number). The remaining 13,482 (96.3 per cent) are automatically generated every time an address is checked or a licence plate is verified. (Yes, when you get pulled over for speeding, your gun status is checked.) The specific registry hits are not limited to use by police officers and also include legal sales of firearms. Every time a firearm is legally purchased, three hits are generated on the database — one for the buyer, one for the seller, and one for the firearm. This alone, easily explains the 530 real “hits” per day. There simply is no reliable information to suggest how many times per day police officers intentionally access the firearms registry.

Statistics Canada states that, in 2006, there were 605 homicides in Canada. Long guns accounted for the following numbers of deaths: 36 victims were killed by a rifle/shotgun, 24 by a sawed-off rifle/shotgun ( obviously not registered) and 22 by another or unknown type of firearm. Of the 605 deaths, 210 were the result of stabbings. Isn’t that interesting?

Perhaps we should start a “Long Knife Registry,” requiring all knives over eight inches in length to be registered. Knife owners would then be required to take knife safety courses and carry a valid knife possession certificate. This would generate plenty of extra cash for further government bureaucracy and intrusion into our privacy.

Our privacy does matter. Shouldn’t a law-abiding gun owner be treated the same as any law-abiding non-gun owner if/when police interact with them?

Shouldn’t the police simply have an awareness that there are long guns in Canada and treat all situations accordingly?

Think about this for a moment.

If a police officer is attending a call and a search of the registry shows no registered long guns at the residence, is he not at greater risk by letting down his guard — even if only slightly? Could there not be unregistered long guns present? If the occupants are really dangerous criminals, any guns they may have would not likely be registered. It seems to me the registry endangers our police officers rather than protect them.

The Long Gun Registry was originally forecast to have a net cost of $2 million, but ended up costing more than $ 1 billion to implement and costs $44.3 million per year to administer. Could all this money have been used for other crime reduction programs, such as gun safety education or other social programs?

The government often uses the figure of $40,000 of spending for each job created. Using that logic, about 1,100 people, mostly RCMP, owe their living to the gun registry. Should anyone be surprised that they are the biggest supporters of the registry?

Look, the facts are that if the registry is scrapped, gun owners would still be required to take mandatory safety courses, hold a valid possession and acquisition licence certificate and transport, use and store firearms in a safe manner. Things would be much like they are now, except that there would not be a central registry draining millions of our taxpayer dollars and doing nothing for the safety of us or police officers. Further, the fees from these activities would still generate income and, without the central registry, result in the gun safety program actually producing a surplus of funds.

It is disheartening to see the general public act so complacent as they incrementally give up their rights and freedoms each time the government says “it’s for your safety” when it comes to public policy. We don’t need more protection from our government. Rather, we need protection from more government. Oh well, that’s my two cents — now where is that paddle?

Tom Fortin is the director of a local electronics manufacturing company.