Long-Gun Registry - Sensible Commentary on a Controversial Issue

Posted on Nov 02, 2011
The conservatives have once again stirred up the long-gun registry issue in parliament, and with Stephen Harper's new-found majority, Bill C-19 is likely to succeed. It would spell the end of the long-gun registry, and the usual social media outlets have lit up with misinformation and overreactions.

While people in the city fear a near-lawless state where criminals have easy access to guns, rural folks feel they've been unfairly targeted for what is largely an urban problem. As a gun owner who has spent nearly an equal amount of time living in the city and the country, I feel I can offer a more constructive perspective on the issue.

The sentiment among responsible, law-abiding gun owners is not that registering guns is bad. It is that the long gun registry is, and always has been, an ineffective waste of money. It has had zero impact on gun related crime, which, I'll remind you again, is a largely urban problem. The undeniable fact remains that gun crimes are committed by criminals, who do not register their guns, do not follow strict laws regarding the safe transport and storage of guns, and do not typically use legally obtained guns anyway.

The most common post I've seen floating around is something to the effect of "OMG we're turning into the US". This reflects a serious misunderstanding of the proposed bill. Abolishing the long gun registry would not make it any easier to purchase a rifle in Canada. Would-be gun owners would still require the same firearms acquisition license, and shops selling firearms would still be required to do their due-diligence in verifying this. You won't suddenly be able to buy ammunition and a shotgun from the gas station, like you can in many states.

Put simply, gun culture in Canada is distinctly different than in the US. We have comparatively few gun nuts who buy guns for "self-protection", and many more rural communities where owning a gun is not only a part of the traditional way of life, but a safety necessity.

Few who oppose bill C-13 seem aware that the bill would not affect the more deadly guns, which are classified as restricted or prohibited. Restricted firearms, including all handguns, will still remain subject to registration (as they have been since 1934), and prohibited weapons such as you'll find in video games will remain banned entirely.

It's not only random folks on facebook and twitter who seem woefully misinformed on the issue, this article from The Star, is written in with a fear-mongering tone and is filled with misleading information. The article suggests that a few particularly dangerous rifles will be "declassified", which is simply not true. Bill C-13 does not change the classification of any guns. If anything, the article should have argued that the weapons he mentions be reclassified to prohibited weapons. Maclean's has published an article in response The Star's article, which does a more thorough job of cutting through the bullshit.

I wish I could say The Star's article was uniquely terrible, but several other misinformed reporters have published equally troubling articles. I'm all for voicing your opinion, but weak journalism like this only serves to polarize readers on the issue. If we continue down this road, I fear I'll be forced to choose between an American style 'right to bear arms' and a European style total ban on firearms - The Canadian way is a reasonable middle ground.

I fully admit that non-restricted "long-guns" can be just as deadly as restricted and prohibited firearms. This is why I personally believe that a properly managed and cost-effective gun registration system is a smart move for Canada - it's really too bad that the Liberals mismanaged the program so badly.

I encourage my friends who count themselves in the anti-gun camp to consider that the resources spent on the long-gun registry could more effectively prevent gun crime if they were instead put toward a combination of social programs and border enforcement.

Julian Fantino said it best in a 2003 press release:

"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."

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Mike at Chance Cove, NL - photo by Angelina Friskney, http://angelinafriskney.com