Monday, November 9, 2009

The Gun Registry Post I Wasn't Going to Write

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.


  1. Great post. I really appreciate when all the rhetoric is dropped. 99% of all the arguments I see are pure emotional "guns are scary" or "I need my gunz" arguments. Rational approach to policy is what I really want to see from all parties.

  2. Well said, Jennifer.
    Harper Index did a pretty good piece on the politics of it : :
    "Every opinion poll I've ever seen shows women, including women who live on farms or in some cases even hunt or have spouses who hunt, partners who hunt, they overwhelmingly – I mean we're running at two thirds to three quarters – believe in keeping the registry."

  3. Good post. I am a gun owner and have no issue whatsoever with the registry, apart from cost. The cost bothers me, and I am not sure that the benefits justify the costs. Unfortunately it does not seem to be possible to find data to support either side of the argument about the registry.
    It does seem to me that the money "wasted" on the registry is now a sunk cost, and if cost of operations is modest, why not keep the thing going?. Cancelling it seems to have only one benefit, really, and that is pandering to Harper's base. It bothers me that the Liberals have allowed themselves to be painted into a corner on this. Not that I am a fan of the Liberals, but I like the Harperites less.

  4. The GR is a threat to public safety. Simply because it lead some in the Public to believe it is a valuable too for public safety. It is NOT.

    According to Fraser, the main reason for the cost overruns comes down to two words: "poor management." Ottawa grossly underestimated the costs of processing licences and registrations. Overly complicated forms resulted in 90 per cent of applications containing errors and omissions, more than twice what had been predicted. The Justice Department's computer systems simply weren't equipped to handle the task at hand.

    What is the compliance in our aboriginal population regarding the Gun Registry? How will you enfore the Registration?

    How do you correct the errors and collect the FEES without spending millions and sending in the Police Force to audit the accuracy of Forms?
    Are you suggesting everyone is going to fill in the forms and not 100% of their ARMS to pay more because it is the right thing to do?

    Are these the same people who believe Canadians are NOT going to Reserves to avoid paying taxes on smokes?

  5. <span>What is the compliance in our aboriginal population regarding the Gun Registry?</span>

    Since the Harper government has had an amnesty on registration, it is doubtful that compliance is high among any demographic. When governments tell their citizens it's okay to disobey laws to which they are ideologically opposed, it sets a dangerous precedent.

    My dog does not run loose, yet every year I buy a new dog license. I do that because I consider it a reesponsibility of living in a society; i.e. because it's the right thing to do.

    $1-$2 bn was an outrageous price for the registry. Just because we paid too much for something, though, is not reason enough to toss it in the rubbish bin.

    Foreign manipulators of public opinion are hard at work trying to turn Canada into the 51st state. If they succeed, Canada may even start to enjoy the levels of gun crime they have in the land of the free.

  6. @CandianSense: Let's then cancel all gun registration. In one fell swop we'll eliminate all illegal unregistered guns in Canada!

    Without a registry people would finally be able to buy, sell, lend and give away deadly weapons without worry of sanction by the state when those weapons are misused. Freedom!

    I, myself, am looking forward to finally owning my .50 cal sniper rifle for home defense against squirrels, raccoons and rowdy teenagers.

    Now, if only we could get rid of those intrusive regulations in place over ammonia nitrate. So what if I want to own 1000 kilos of the stuff for my farm? It's just fertilizer! It's no one's business that I have it! Why do I have to submit to a mandatory audit and be licensed?

    Some days, I just want to take the stuff, make a bomb and blow something important up in protest.

    And anyone trying to stop me would get their arse filled with buckshot.

    Damnit! Forgot to take my lithium today...

  7. Oh yeah, here we go...

    CS - I'll repeat this one more time for the benefit of the slow and stubborn: THERE IS NO FEE FOR REGISTERING A NON-RESTRICTED FIREARM IN CANADA.

  8. Excellent post.

    There was a call from the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians asking for the long-gun registry to be maintained.

    Interesting facts from it.

    - 80% of suicide deaths from firearms were due to long guns.

    - Of firearm-related homicides in 2008 in Canada, 34% were by rifles or shotguns, 61% by handguns and 17% by prohibited firearms.

    -Long guns were used in 72% of firearm-related spousal homicides.

  9. Jennifer, there is no use trying to convince the anti gun registry that their is no fee to register. If Harper says we need to get rid of it, they all follow like sheep. They are of closed mind wear blind folds and brain washed beyond letting common sense prevail. All they have to do is goggle the information you provided but they like their idol t do the thinking for them. After all, they belong to Stevies kingdom and probably work for him too. They are about the only ones who have jobs now a day.

  10. Thanks for this eminently sensible post on the long gun registry.  Sometimes I just can't help but think, if it was really as useless as the CONs say, they wouldn't want to get rid of it.  It's so perverse.  I hope we've got them on this one.  I'm passing your post on.

  11. EXCELLENT post, Jennifer.  Why wasn't the MainStreamMedia printing things exactly like this in the days & months up to the (non-confidence) vote! And WHY did the Libs & Bloc support this Con inanity?! 
       I am just now going to send ythis brilliant blog to my Rural Cousin,  gun-owner & of the anti-gun-registry religion.  I just have to share your eminent common sense with him! (Be prepared for comments. ...;-/)

  12. Brilliant, eloquent and fact-based.  A winning trifecta.

  13. Perfect, Johnny!  Just perfect!

  14. Best post I've seen so far on the topic at this stage! Thank you for writing it, Jennifer! 
        If anyone is interested, today in the Mark is a new piece by Con MP Garry Breitkreuz, from rural Sask, who is also Chair of the fed. Public Safety Committee (another Harp juggle).  He's a gun-totin rural redneck, as most people, including many of his constitutents in Sk. know.  The article is interesting in terms of how the anti-gun Reg. crowd thing - & are still thinking - facts, be damned! It's all about the gov. will take away my GUN!
     (personally, I think it's a little freudian myself ;-) Here's the link: