Wednesday, November 04, 2009

BANG!

Ahhh...the gun registry debate. A chance for civilized debate free of hyperbole.

Ha ha. Just kidding of course.

Nothing gets people fired up - on both sides of the divide - quite like it. In a light hearted article last week about how U of O convocation ceremonies are dealing with H1N1, the first dozen comments (since purged) were angry rants about how Allan Rock, now the University's President, had destroyed Canada by bringing in the gun registry. And from there, the conversation degenerated to the standard debate about just who exactly is killing Canadians, the colour of the necks of farmers, and why Torontonians hate freedom. On one side of this epic debate, those who believe the government wants to take their guns away, on the other, people who think it's smart to get gun owners really angry at them.

So you can image that tensions on both sides are high in anticipation of today's vote to scrap the registry which will, from all indications, be a close one:

According to my own informal survey of rural opposition MPs, it looks like Candice Hoeppner's bill to abolish the long gun registry is well on its way to becoming law.

The vote on second reading is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 4.

And because C-391 is a private member's bill, it'll be a free vote. That means MPs are freed from the usual requirement of voting along party lines.

Despite holding almost all of northern and rural Quebec, a spokesman for the Bloc Quebecois says every one of its MPs will vote against Hoeppner's bill.

But a number of Liberal and NDP MPs from rural ridings say they're in favour of ending the registration of all shotguns and hunting rifles, as well as destroying the records of roughly seven million people who had previously registered their non-restricted weapons.

Among those supporting Hoeppner's bill are New Democrats Nathan Cullen, Dennis Bevington, Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, and Carol Hughes, and Liberals Larry Bagnell, Wayne Easter and Anthony Rota.

Personally, I never really got the intensity of opposition to the registry. Let's put it this way - if you live in the conservative heart land of Calgary, it takes more time and money to register your cat than it does to register your gun. Of course, in fairness, the number of homicides involving cats in Calgary has dropped significantly since that registry was introduced.

On the other side of the aisle, I have a hard time swallowing studies that say the registry is responsible for dramatically decreasing rates of gun violence. And yes, the program was set up poorly and, looking back, the money could probably have been better spent elsewhere.

But that's a sunk cost. Moving forward, the registry costs about 60-80 million a year to run, and that amount would drop if the government actually collected the registration fees they're supposed to. So the real question is: it worth the money?

Now that is a fair debate worth having, and you could make the case either way. I think, on balance, it is, but I wouldn't hold it against anyone arguing the opposite.

The way I see it, most police chiefs and officers support the registry, and that alone counts for something (yes, yes, there go those law-in-order liberals worrying about what police officers want again...). John Geddes at MacLean's had a good piece this spring about just how exactly they use it.

And while it may be hard to quantify, there are other benefits to registering weapons - that's why no one is seriously advocating for the abolishment of the hand gun registry. Having a registry makes it easier to de-register ownership after someone commits a crime, to return stolen guns to their rightful owners, to track weapons, and to add a bit more accountability to the system. I don't want to overstate these benefits, because it's easy to give the registry credit for what gun licensing accomplishes, but more information certainly helps.

If I could trade the registry for stricter ownership and licensing rules, and a concerted crack-down on illegal weapons, I would. But since no politician is proposing anything of the sort (and I'm not really sure why no one is, since that seems like clever positioning to me), I tend to think the registry is, on balance, worth keeping around.

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17 Comments:

  • If the pro-safety MPs were smart about this, they would encourage one of the many anti-gun registry NDP or Liberal MPs to propose an amendment to include the cancelling of the hand gun registry.

    I think that would be more controversy and vote-losing than anti-safety Harper would be willing to risk and so he'd want to vote the amendment down, thereby having Harper to defend one gun registry while attacking another.

    By Blogger Old School Liberal, at 10:03 AM  

  • It's probably in the Liberals' best interest if the registry gets killed. They can blame Harper for being against gun control and it takes a fundraising issue away from the Cons.

    By Anonymous Liberal Voter, at 10:31 AM  

  • This is more proof of a sign of weakness in the Lib party.On the one hand Iggy can't whip his caucus on this because I suspect a few of them would ignore him.

    On the other hand if he doesn't whip his caucus the registry could die.

    The registry is unenforceable. Some people I know that tried to register their rifles couldn't.The cheques were never cashed after they sent the money in and filled out the forms.It is beyond a farce.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:44 AM  

  • No irony at all that the Liberals get caught in a knight's fork on this. They deserve it. The registry was a blatantly political idea that transparently would NOT greatly reduce crimes like the massacre in Montreal. (And now they get to look weak and foolish. Damn them.)

    It was the law of the land, though. I have no patience for the crybabies and wankers who find the registry filing process to be too onerous. If they can't get through it they probably can't file taxes or drive a car either.
    As a compliant gun owner.. one who obeys all the laws, not just the ones I like, it really pisses me off to see the way the Harper government has allowed the law to be broken while in effect, and then to hide behind the private member's bill this way.
    Harper is the master strategist, all right. When can we be rid of him?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:23 AM  

  • The gun registry was a good idea. It pro-actively sought to reduce crime. The Conservatives offer no option to reduce gun crime. They simply want to increase sentences. Cold comfort for the dead and their families.

    The gun registry was buggered by the American NRA coming to CAnada and funding conservatives and whipping up support. It would have broad implications in the US if the registry succeeded here. The NRA coached farmers to plug up phone lines and endlessly bitch about the system. If farmers complied in good faith CAnada would be a little safer today. The registry was not a 100% solution but it was better than the nothing offred by the conservatives.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:22 PM  

  • "The gun registry was a good idea. It pro-actively sought to reduce crime."

    Pure ignorance. Gun ownership has nothing to do with crime. If it did, Switzerland would be a crime-ridden hell-hole.
    Being raised by a single mother has much more to do with committing crime than owning a gun, but the whole gun control issue is politically correct bullshit and has nothing to do with reality.

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 1:58 PM  

  • I don't buy the "gun ownership is bad" slant of some of the above posters. Since nobody is proposing to scrap the handgun registry we are really talking about people owning long guns. Such guns make poor murder weapons because they are hard to conceal - even if likely criminals were going to register them in the first place.

    I think the real issue (I am ambivalent about the gun registry) is its use in effective law enforcement. It is helpful for the police to know what kind of weapons are in somebody's house before they come storming in.

    Will some people have unregistered weapons? Sure. But some will have registered ones.

    Frankly I would prefer to ban all guns, but make it real easy to carry around tasers.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 3:48 PM  

  • If someone can convince me that the gun registry has saved at least 1 life I would support it.

    But I'm yet to be convinced.

    By Anonymous Reasonable Conservative, at 4:03 PM  

  • "If someone can convince me that the gun registry has saved at least 1 life I would support it."

    Unfortunately it is hard to prove prevention by pointing to statistics, so allow me to paint a scenario where the gun registry could easily save a life.

    Lets say some guy kills his wife, and is holed up in his house, surrounded by police. Do they need to be wearing bullet-proof vests? Should they storm the building, or hold out? Knowing in advance what weapons the murderer has are helpful for making these kinds of decisions.

    Yes, he could have unregistered weapons, but at least it is possible to rule out that somebody is unarmed.

    Secondly, while many crimes take place with the use of unregistered firearms, that isn't always the case. Being able to narrow down suspects based on weapon ownership, and having at their disposal another, easily trackable piece of evidence is helpful to police (this saves lives by deterring criminals and helping to put dangerous people behind bars).

    So there are two scenarios where a gun registry could easily save lives.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 4:51 PM  

  • The problem isn't with the idea of a long gun registry. The problem is with the implementation of a long gun registry.

    And there was no clear path, after years of political discourse, for fixing the implementation of this long gun registry.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 8:08 PM  

  • We all agree that the implementation and original registration requirements were disasters. However, what strikes me as crazy is the fact that “law and order” Conservatives are against what law enforcement officials say is a very important crime-fighting tool. Jason Kenney mentioned on CTV tonight that the bill would only get rid of certain elements of the program so I am starting to think they may cave-in and keep parts of it. Like posters noted above, if I was going in to take out a suspect I would want to know if he has any firearms in the house. Likewise, it would probably help catch a murderer if the police could trace the gun and narrow down suspects that way. I say fix it by not forcing us to pay more than a reasonable, one time fee.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:30 PM  

  • "Like posters noted above, if I was going in to take out a suspect I would want to know if he has any firearms in the house."

    If the long-gun registry indicates no registered weapons on site, what are your conclusions, exactly? That only registered long guns exist? That only lawfully registered users would use said weapon? That nobody has moved into or out of that house in the last several weeks (since registrations must be considered to be at best several weeks out of date)?

    If the registry indicates there's a long gun at the address, you know that there's a weapon in the hands of someone who cared enough about the law to register that device. If the registry indicates nothing, you get to assume there's a weapon in the hands of someone who might use it.

    There's nothing new in what I say here, of course. But there's no security in false security, either.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 11:49 PM  

  • Although i'm certainly opposed to gun violence (not in James Bond movies, of course), I oppose the gun registry.

    I had to register my dad's guns with the registry -- rural corn/wheat farm, guns are only used for danger (my dad shot a dog that attacked my mom in our yard between the barn and house). I don't know about registering a cat, but I call total, absolute bullshit, Dan -- it was an infuriating wait, and I think it was inexcusable for a government to put a remote farming family without 911 service through that kind of hurdle, under threat of legal repercussion.

    I'm with you in general on this post, but I wonder if you've registered guns, and if so, what your experience was compared to mine.

    The government does nothing to protect my family or our neighbors - the police aren't around the corner. We don't have drugs or deal with Hell's Angels, we don't have drive-by shootings, and besides a suicide a decade ago, I don't know ANYone, at all, who's experienced gun violence where I come from. There's no gun-toting criminals where I grew up, just a bunch of corn and sheep and soy and dairy farmers with a lot of wild and dense wooded area dotting the landscape. It's like the moors scene to An American Werewolf In London.

    I support and want gun control. This isn't gun control.

    So while I agree that I'd trade it for the measures you outline, and share your puzzlement (is that a word? I'm in a rush...) at why no pol has come up with the idea, I don't personally feel the long gun registry accomplishes anything besides punishing completely innocent people. 60-80 MILLION a year??? Put it into fighting the violent criminals, for god's sake.

    I only support gun (or any other) control when it's done smartly. This isn't.

    Thanks for letting me comment, Dan.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 8:59 AM  

  • Frankly I would prefer to ban all guns, but make it real easy to carry around tasers.

    Nice!

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 9:01 AM  

  • But there's no security in false security, either.

    Oh, you mean like your beloved Iraq War, Paul?

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 9:02 AM  

  • "I support and want gun control. This isn't gun control."

    What do you mean by "gun control"? Do you mean proper screening and ensuring that gun owners are reasonably stable individuals? Or do you mean controlling the type and/or number of guns I can own? The second scares me because you progressives always want "progress", and the only progress in that second option is towards Hosertohoosier's world without guns.

    It's interesting how people who want gun control usually mean banning types of guns rather than screening of owners or tougher penalties for gun crimes. The Liberals banned full-auto (basically machine guns) in the 1970s but up to that point there were few, if any incidents of machine guns being used in crimes in Canada. Most were vet bring-backs from the WWII. I'm not really advocating for machine gun ownership but I do think we need to base laws on reality and not on what some non-gun owner or anti-gun advocate thinks looks "scary".

    By Blogger The Rat, at 5:00 PM  

  • Do you mean proper screening and ensuring that gun owners are reasonably stable individuals? Or do you mean controlling the type and/or number of guns I can own?

    Having explained how much I oppose the gun registry, and how in favor I am of my dad owning several different kinds of guns, I don't think there's much point in answering a stupid question....

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 8:22 AM  

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