OP/ED: Gun registry is divisive politics
The current Bill C-391 to abolish the gun registry appears to be receiving a lot of media attention these days. The Conservative government is cranking up its publicity campaign to abolish the registry, pitting different regions of the country against each other. If we were to look at how this is playing out in the media, it would appear that this is the number one issue of concern to Canadians. I believe there are many more important matters for Parliament to tackle rather than spending so much energy on firearms registration. I have been faced with this issue ever since I first ran as a candidate in 2004. At that time, I clearly staked out my position – that if there is a slight chance that the registry is working to assist police in their job, it should not be scrapped. It is always easier to modify something that is in place as opposed to bringing it back once it is gone. The registry is a very emotional issue for some. One Conservative MP is stating that maintaining it will somehow lead to all of our guns being confiscated by the government – what utter nonsense! Others are affirming their right to possess weapons without any restrictions, much like the “right to bear arms” position of the American National Rifle Association. On the flip side, many Canadians are unequivocal in their position that the gun registry helps keep us safe. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), the Canadian Association of Police Boards and the RCMP all state that the registry helps them in their day-to-day work. This position is supported by various women’s organizations, the Canadian Auto Workers Union and the Canadian Labour Congress. My party has some concrete proposals to improve the current gun laws: 1. Make the penalty for first-time failure to register a long-gun a non-criminal fine2. Protect Aboriginal treaty right and respect traditional ways of life3. Better protect gun-owners’ private information4. Ensure that there is never a charge for long-gun registration5. Empower municipalities to ban handguns, if their citizens so chose6. Improve the sharing of important mental health information between law-enforcement and military agencies to identify and address public safety threats According to William Blair, president of CACP, Canadian law enforcement agencies use the Firearms Registry, on average, 11,500 times a day in criminal investigations to determine the origin of firearms used in crime and recovered from criminals. It is also used: to create accountability for the sale and disposition of firearms; to identify and remove firearms from dangerous situations and; to return recovered firearms to their rightful owners. According to a recent article in the National Post, between 2003 and 2008, 152 homicides were committed in Canada with long-guns when the registration status of the weapon was known. What I fail to understand is if there is some evidence that the registry is helping keep Canadians safe, why is our “law and order” Conservative government opposing it? Why is Stephen Harper not supporting our police in their difficult task? My rifles are registered and I do not feel that my freedom has been encroached upon at all. Let’s put this debate aside and get on with issues that matter to Canadians such as affordable health care and education, adequate employment insurance, support for rural Canada, putting an end to poverty and control of our food supply.