I wasn't going to say anything about the gun registry on this blog. Because seriously, who needs that kind of abuse?
Of course my reticence didn't stop me from spending the past week leaving comments on every blog post and media article I found on the subject. And it wasn't like I actually thought I was going to convince anybody one way or the other.
I just got fed up with seeing the same old misinformation making the rounds.
The problem is, there really is an urban/rural divide on this issue, but it has nothing to do with who does or doesn't benefit from the long gun registry - it has to do with who has firsthand knowledge of our firearm licensing and registration system. City folk, by and large, do not own a lot of rifles or shotguns. So even if they support the long gun registry, their arguments tend to fall apart when those against it start pulling out authentic-sounding facts and figures. They have no way to contradict these people because they have never themselves registered a firearm.
I have. So let me clear up a couple of things for you.
1) There are three categories of forms we're talking about here: the gun registry (which is for the gun but connects it to the person), the hunting license (if that's why you want a gun), and the firearm license, which is either a Possession and Acquisition License (PAL) or a Possession Only License (POL). You need one of those last two in order to purchase, own, or temporarily possess a firearm, and you need to take a firearms safety course before you get one.
2) There are no 'intrusive questions' on the gun registry form, unless you consider the length of your barrel to be nobody's business but your own. The only questions that might be considered intrusive are on the two firearms license forms. These are questions like, "Have you recently ended a long-term relationship?" and "Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?" Personally, I think these are important things to know, but they have nothing to do with the gun registry.
3) Registering a non-restricted rifle or shotgun is FREE. I'll repeat that: there is NO CHARGE for registering a non-restricted long gun. Anyone who tells you different has obviously not registered a weapon since 2006 when the fees were eliminated.
4) The elimination of the registration fees was the direct result of complaints from people who owned multiple guns. It is also one of the main reasons why the gun registry came to cost so much to taxpayers.
5) You do not need to renew the registration on a long gun unless it's modified in some way. You do have to renew you PAL or POL - there is a fee for that, but it has been waived until next spring.
6) You cannot have a gun for 'home defence' in Canada. Legally. You can have one for hunting, sport shooting, or as a collector, but you aren't allowed to have one just so you can pull a Clint Eastwood on your front lawn. If you write in anything except hunting, sport shooting or collecting under 'reason for applying' on your PAL or POL form, they will not give you a gun license.
There are lots more facts and statistics at the RCMP's Firearms Program website, which you can browse at your leisure. The same website has all the licensing and registration regs just in case I've missed anything.
I did want to say something about this notion that 'criminals don't register their guns'. Frankly, I don't worry so much about criminals, or at least not the kinds of criminals most people are thinking of when they make statements like that. Even when I lived in some of the worst neighbourhoods in Toronto, I knew that when there were shootings it was generally just the bad guys shooting at each other.
But here in Milton, we just don't have a lot of gang-bangers or drug dealers or bikers or Mafia-types, or any of the sorts of scary career criminals you see on American TV (well, we do, but most of them are locked up in Maplehurst up the road).
What we do have in this quiet little town are drunks, abusive spouses and bored teenagers. Some of them have access to firearms. Most of them are upright, law-abiding citizens - right up until they're not. So for me as well as for all those other people trying to defend their 'rural lifestyle', the odds of getting shot by a previously law-abiding spouse, or a drunken neighbour, or some kid showing off his dad's .22 to his friends are much, much higher than the chances of getting shot by a gang member with an illegal handgun.
In other words, the people who tend to be the most vocal against the long gun registry are also the ones who potentially benefit the most from it.
As for exactly how effective the gun registry is in preventing domestic crime, protecting police, or keeping illegal guns off the street... I don't know. I'm just a gun owner, not a police officer, so I'll let the police themselves answer that question for you.
There. I've said my piece. Have at it.
UPDATE: Here's a chart based on homicide stats since the homicide peak of 1991, from the Department of Justice. The firearms registry was started in 1996. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.