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.
Labels: gun registry