PUBLICATION: The Chronicle-Herald
COLUMN: Al Muir
WORD COUNT: 895
From the still open wounds of the Mayerthorpe, Alta., RCMP massacre, to
the hail of gunfire blanketing the streets of Toronto and Vancouver, it
is apparent something is seriously amiss with Canada's $2-billion
Firearms Registry. With a federal election campaign underway, the
registry as a measure of "gun control" is under further public scrutiny.
Why is the expensive registry not functioning as predicted, and what
measures will curb the slaughter of innocents? Will the Liberals'
proposed handgun ban help alleviate the problem? The answers lie in
where we choose to focus "control."
On Oct. 3, 2003, a report on the effectiveness of firearms laws was
released by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. It detailed
the results of a three-year review of scientific evidence regarding the
effectiveness of firearms laws in preventing violence. Areas covered
included firearms registration and licensing of firearm owners. The task
force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any
firearms laws. On Dec. 16, 2004, similar results were issued in a U.S.
National Academy of Sciences report, Firearms and Violence: A Critical
Closer to home, Canadian Professor Garry Mauser's report, The Failed
Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada, Australia, England
and Wales, underlines the serious deficiencies in worldwide attempts at
"gun control." In countries like England, with more stringent laws than
Canada, including a handgun ban, gun crime is on the rise. Disarming the
law-abiding has resulted in an emboldened criminal element.
In responding to MP Garry Breitkreuz's Order Paper Question Q-19 on Nov.
29, 2004, Statistics Canada stated: "The specific impact of the firearms
program or the firearms registry cannot be isolated from other factors"
in determining changes in crime statistics.
The central problem with these "gun control" efforts is their focus on
those least likely to require them. While responsible citizens line up
to abide by the requirements, criminals do not. Indeed, they cannot! If
you are a criminal, you theoretically cannot get a licence. Without a
licence, you cannot register a firearm. As acknowledged by Canadian
Firearms Commissioner William Baker (in the minutes of the standing
committee on justice and human rights, Nov. 24, 2004), criminals fall
outside of the scope of the Firearms Act. The registry applies only to
those who are allowed to own firearms. Under the sentencing provisions
of the Firearms Act, legally licensed owners potentially face
imprisonment for up to two years for failing to report an address change
within 30 days. They are also required to open up their homes to
inspections when requested. At present, over 176,000 Canadians have a
court-ordered firearms prohibition and over 37,000 have restraining
orders. These individuals are exempt from the requirement of reporting
their whereabouts or allowing in-home inspections. They are on no
According to Statistics Canada, in the year 2003, 69 per cent of adults
accused of homicide had a criminal record, two-thirds for violent
offences. Five had previously committed murder. The vast majority of
these individuals would be issued a firearms prohibition.
Because law-abiding firearm owners vastly outnumber those predisposed to
criminal use, the system is untenably expensive. Individuals who are a
threat to commit or who commit crimes with firearms are, or should be,
identified very early by law-enforcement officials and the courts. They
should be placed on a new Firearms Prohibition Registry (FPR), aimed
specifically at known criminals and potentially dangerous individuals.
These dangerous individuals would be readily identified and tracked by
law-enforcement officials and the courts, and thus prevented from
acquiring or possessing a firearm. By monitoring many fewer individuals,
the FPR would be much less expensive to administer.
An FPR focused on known and potential abusers of firearms, not the
responsible firearms owners, would be much more effective and useful to
police. We should focus our tax dollars on known threats, not
responsible citizens. The FPR could be housed with a pedophile registry
and any other necessary registry of dangerous persons. The benefits in
centralizing expertise and the economy of keeping one central registry
should be obvious.
What is required is a combination of firearms prohibitions, monitoring
of people they are issued against, adequate coercion to ensure
compliance with prohibitions, and adequate punishment when people
possess or misuse prohibited items.
If the focus of "gun control" does not shift to those individuals
prohibited from possession and serious efforts are not made to
strengthen laws to enforce those prohibitions, preventable firearms
violence will continue.
In Canada, the Liberals are proposing a ban on handguns. At present,
moves are afoot in Britain to ban sharp kitchen knives. The faulty
premises of "gun control" are in danger of being applied to "knife
control." What is required is "criminal control," but liberal philosophy
requires we handle criminals delicately. The FPR is a bold, innovative,
but rational step towards criminal control and a rejection of "baseball
bat control" and any number of other irrational reactions to the problem
of violence in our homes and businesses and on our streets.
Al Muir of Stellarton is the Nova Scotia director of the Canadian
Unregistered Firearms Owners Association.
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