Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gun control in Canada - changes are coming

I remember when Marc Lepine rounded up a group of women at L'Ecole Polytechnique and killed them with an illegal weapon. I was working at University of Calgary. Everyone, gun owner or not, was stunned and horrified. How could this happen in Canada, we have gun control. Handguns and semi-automatic weapons were prohibited. The crazy guy shouldn't have been able to get a license and shouldn't have been able to legally purchase a weapon that could be converted. Surely our government would address this. Then word came down that, in addition to solidifying laws about acquisition, requiring locked gun storage and generally ensuring that gun owners were aware of hazards, people with rifles (long guns) would required to register each gun. Oh the uproar. Rural gun owners were being penalized for the actions of fearful Urbanites.

Many changes were made to gun ownership. The screening for Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) became more rigorous and the certificate must be renewed every 5 years. Renewal is easy enough, fill in a form, submit a picture and your certificate will be reviewed and renewed. More importantly, you could no longer legally purchase ammunition without producing a certificate. Illicit weapons were expanded and made more specific.

Now the government is making changes again. The Bill in the house will remove the requirement to register each long gun. More uproar, how could this make us safer than what we have? Why is this such a big deal? Why is the current list of owners being deleted?

I don't know if will make us safer but the reason the registry should be destroyed is the same reason it was a failure to start with; voluntary registry of existing firearms. It's no big deal to implement a registry of guns as you purchase them, just another step in the process. But the people who were against the registry were never going to put their guns in the system because they were sure the black helicopters were coming. To get all guns registered you would have had to do house to house, as is done with census, to *reduce* non-compliance. Those long lived, non - registered guns float in the system, not getting registered as they change hands because people get them from friends/neighbours/family members and if they register them the original owner will get charged.

Now you have a very porous gun registry. Would it be better to continue funding at a Federal level or would it be better to use Federal funding to prevent restricted weapons from entering the country? Keep in mind Canada shares the largest non patrolled border in the world that happens to be next to a country with fundamentally different viewpoint to gun ownership. There is not unlimited funding so I pick the latter. Car registration and insurance is dealt with at the provincial level with Federal umbrella legislation. as is labour laws, designating the age of majority, and health care. Why not supplement Federal law with Provincial legislation?

What about transferring vs destroying the existing registry? If it was my responsibility, I would destroy it. It is too full of holes for me confidently transfer that information. It would use just as much resources to verify existing information as would to re-register everyone and verifying the registry would be at the bottom of the "to-do" list because the registry is already populated. Bad information would delay investigations as much as no information.

I know there are guns in our home, they are not mine and I have not fired them. I tried skeet shooting as an Air Cadet and in my 20s when a boyfriend inherited some black power rifles we shot them at a range. It was fun and I think it would be fun to try pistol shooting as long as the targets were just the round ones. Yet, I am for rigorous gun control. Virtually every handgun and automatic weapons crime is Canada is done with an illegal weapon and the public are not allowed to have concealed weapons. Users are investigated and  must pass a gun safety test before they can get a gun or ammunition in a store. If there is domestic violence, any FAC is re-examined. No onerous requirements. I would like all guns to be registered but I'm not sure it would be a more effective control than existing peer pressure and better border inspection/control.