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Still need for gun controls

Stephen Harper has had the gun registry in his sights since his days in opposition. Upon becoming prime minister in 2006, he quickly set about angling for its demise. That change, however, has not been quick in coming, as the Tories found themselves stymied at every turn by opposition parties and by public opinion.

Following the somewhat over-the-top private member’s bill introduced by Conservative backbencher Garry Breitkreuz – he would see loosening of gun controls far behind killing the long-gun registry – Harper is now trying to go through the back door, introducing a bill in the Senate.

No one would argue the gun registry introduced by the Liberals has been anything but a boondoggle. Originally budgeted to cost the government a couple of million dollars, with most of the expenses covered by registration fees, the project quickly became a $1-billion sinkhole.

Axing the gun registry now is something of a closing-the-barn-door scenario: a little too late. The wasteful program should have been scrapped years ago, before taxpayers were gouged for its creation.

The costs are one thing, but better reasons for gutting the registry exist, starting with the computer system apparently being hacker friendly, allowing criminals to know just where to find stashes of firearms, right down to the addresses and what guns are on the premises.

Even under the best-case scenario, the firearms registry would have done little to reduce gun-related incidents in this country. Instead, legitimate gun owners, already supervised by pre-existing measures, have been subjected to unnecessary hassles and extra expenses.

Supporters of the registry to this day cannot prove a single benefit derived from an inefficient system, by definition incomplete, inaccurate and out of date. The registry is hardly a reason for anybody to feel safer. And that, after all, is the goal.

Urban Canadians are increasingly worried about crime. Violence is a particular bogeyman, as witnessed by the mess we’re seeing in Vancouver. With every incident, particularly the horrific shooting sprees that seem to occur more often these days, there are more calls for further restrictions on gun ownership, a perfectly understandable reaction.

On the other side of the argument, gun advocates will argue for greater access to guns, saying armed civilians could have gunned down such criminals before their killing sprees continued.

The latter arguments are commonplace in the U.S., where second amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – issues abound. In Canada, the notion seems ridiculous: having more guns at hand increases the risk. It would be far more likely for someone to see red, snap and use a readily available gun than it would be for someone to be faced with a murderer on a shooting rampage.

According to the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control, the U.S. gun death rates are far higher than other industrialized countries, and among the highest recorded in the world. Statistics from 2005 indicate the U.S. had 10,100 gun homicides compared to 222 in Canada.

While Canada and the U.S. have comparable rates of homicides without guns (1.79 per 100,000 versus 1.35), the American firearm homicide rate is five times Canada’s (3.8 versus. 0.69 per 100.000); the U.S. handgun homicide rate is seven times Canada’s (2.83 versus 0.39 per 100,000).

The registry fiasco is clearly no reason to diminish real and effective gun controls.

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