The long-gun registry’s value is only symbolic

COYNE: It’s not much use, for not much cost. If it’s worth keeping, it’s probably worth killing as well.

KEVIN FRAYER/CP

One thing all the parties agree on is the vital importance of the long-gun registry. Whether it’s a costly and intrusive waste of time, as the Tories maintain, or an effective tool of law enforcement, as the Liberals insist, or both, as I gather is the NDP’s view, it’s widely seen as a critical, make-or-break issue.

And like most critical, make-or-break issues in politics, it’s of little actual importance to anyone. Whether the registry lives or dies will have no impact whatsoever on the vast majority of Canadians, and scarcely more on the minority that pay it close attention.

Take the cost, first. It is certainly true that the costs of setting up the registry were substantial, and outrageous. If the issue were whether it was worth spending $2 billion just to draw up a list, not of handguns or newly purchased rifles (both are subject to separate procedures), but of the rifles people already owned, I doubt there’d be many takers.

But the registry has been set up. The $2 billion is a sunk cost: it’s gone, and nothing we can do will get it back. The relevant factor in any decision we make now is not what we paid in the past but what we’ll have to pay from here on, that is, the annual cost of maintaining the registry, which the RCMP informs us is less than $4 million a year.

Not terribly costly, and not terribly intrusive either: as its defenders point out, we are obliged to register many other of our possessions, most of them far less capable of havoc than a gun. As Charlie Gillis reports elsewhere in this issue, whatever forms gun owners must fill out on account of the registry are barely noticeable amid the mounds of paperwork to which they are already subject.

On the other hand, there’s not much evidence of the registry’s effectiveness, either. Its boosters among the nation’s police forces say it can be useful, when answering a domestic disturbance, say, to know how many guns are in the house. Which is no doubt true—if the householder has been so good as to register them all. But the best gun registry tells us relatively little about unregistered guns. In sum, the registry is not much use, for not much cost. If it’s probably worth keeping, it’s probably worth killing as well. It just doesn’t matter a great deal either way. That is, if actual costs and benefits are your thing.

But as for its symbolic value, ah, that’s another story. Rightly or wrongly, many people in rural Canada have come to see the gun registry as a sign of the disdain with which they are viewed by blinkered city snobs. The Conservatives know this, and cater to it. Equally, many people in urban Canada have come to see it, not only as the antidote to gun crime, but as a token of credibility on urban issues. The Liberals know this, and cater to it in their turn. (As have the Bloc, though in Quebec the registry is less controversial.) Which leaves the NDP, and the 12 anti-registry MPs in its ranks who will decide this month’s crucial parliamentary vote on the issue. (Sorry, did I say crucial? Not exactly. The vote is on a Liberal motion to scotch a Tory private member’s bill, C-391, that would abolish the registry. But the bill itself does not come to a vote at third reading for some time yet. So even if the motion is defeated, that doesn’t guarantee the bill will pass.)

The wavering MPs, all from rural or small-town ridings, are under enormous pressure, given the registry’s unpopularity with their constituents; two have already recanted under the heat. But that’s nothing compared to the abuse their leader, Jack Layton, has taken. The Liberals have been especially scornful of him for his refusal to whip the vote, painting this as a failure of “leadership.” That’s their privilege, I suppose, but that’s no reason the rest of us should buy into it.

I had some fun at the top of this column with the NDP’s position, or positions, on the issue. But in fact the party is handling it exactly as it should. This needs to be said, and should be repeated every time this comes up: there’s nothing wrong with a caucus being “divided” on a vote. That is simply another name for MPs doing what they were elected to do: represent their riding, either as their conscience or their constituents dictate.

The gun registry shows up nowhere in the NDP’s 2008 platform. The party did not run on it, and MPs cannot be said to owe their seats to the party’s stand on the issue. So there’s no failure of leadership here. Layton may not have much choice—the NDP has many more dissenters in its caucus, proportionately, than do the Liberals, so any use of the whip risked inciting a revolt—but he’s doing the right thing all the same. You take a stand as a party where you have a consensus as a party. If there’s no such consensus, what is the point of pretending there is?

So maybe there is something important at stake here after all. The NDP are taking a principled stand on behalf of parliamentary democracy and the rights of MPs, right? Er, no. When the Liberals were “divided,” as in the vote to extend the Afghanistan mission in 2006, the NDP leader was among the first to criticize them. As usual in our politics, any resemblance to principle is purely coincidental.




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The long-gun registry’s value is only symbolic

  1. I don't think you are right……but the symbolic notion is an interesting one. What this gun registry is REALLY symbolic of is a government who refuses to collaborate or compromise even in the face of fact and reason. It is a classic example of the refusal of this government to focus on actual priorities and their commitment to campaign and campaign and manipulate Canadians even if it mean that large issues go untended and even if it means that we become a bickering self-interested polarized nation.

    It is a disgrace on many levels……but thanks for bringing up the notion of symbolism.

    • "What this gun registry is REALLY symbolic of is a government who refuses to collaborate or compromise even in the face of fact and reason."

      You're referring of course to how the Liberal government of Jean Chretien and Alan Rock set it up in the first place.

      • No, of course I am not……the registry was set up well over a decade ago and that was then and this is now.
        In the face of signficant division on the issue the smart thing to do would be to collaborate and compromise….a REAL leader would know that. IF however, your agenda is to play poltics and campaign and use wedge isues to polarize then Harper scores an A+ he has SUCH and aptitude for turning molehills into mountains.

        • Oh and Ignatieff is such a team player????? What a load! What compromise is Iggy doing when he is whipping the vote?

  2. How can you compromise with people who don't know what they want? You're not spending enough money – oh, now you spent way too much money. You're not following through on your promise to get tough on crime – but we didn't really want you to follow through. It's our way or the highway – but, we didn't really mean that, just teasing.

  3. I think it is also symbolic to the chattering classes as well, in that it has become a proxy for the Conservative government.

    I doubt that, for example, Aaron Wherry really cares whether there is a long gun registry or not; like most of the partisans here he just wants to see the Conservatives defeated on something that is important to them.

    Likewise for those who support killing it. It doesn't cost much and probably doesn't matter a whit in their own lives; but if killing it means sticking a finger in the eyes of the Liberals then it must be the right thing to do.

    • I tend to see it this way too, john g. The vote itself is ideologically symbolic for most Canadians. I think it could be a big symbolic loss for Iggy, or for Harper, however this pans out.

      But I am curious about why the police chiefs, rcmp, etc, would want to stick their fingers into the eyes of the conservatives, who most share their law and order values. Are we to believe they are being disingenuous when they say they use it thousands of times every day?

      Because I don't know anything about guns; they are not part of my life and I hope they never are. I do think that now it's built, if indeed it is used by those who strive to keep public safety, then we should keep it. But the whole cop/con thing has me confused.

      I do agree with that this is not really a private member's bill, and that makes me look askance at the government yet again. I am so sick of their manipulations and this just seems like one more slippery move on their part.

      • I think Patchuli, the reason the police chiefs would like to retin the registry is simply that the police have a compulsive desire to ensure all citizens are in their comprehensive data bank. I swear, if there was a mandatory table napkin registry, the police would be in favour of enforcing it and collecting data on everyone who ate a meal in the country.

        Have you ever approached the police to report anything, the first thing they do, before addresing the information you provide is they go in an intrusive data gathering exercise(ie date of birth, address, name, etc.) only then will they deign to consider whether the information you have provided is worth their time and effort to address

  4. I strongly agree with you! I am not a fan of Layton's but the NDP is doing the right thing letting their MPs vote their own way and I do believe a good leader has to see the whole picture.

    • I thought they were not whipping the vote because it is a private member's bill. Except that it really isn't a private member's bill; it's clearly a government bill — or maybe they would compromise with the suggestions put forth by the Liberals last spring, and the NDP a couple of weeks ago.

      I'm not a fan of Layton's, I wish him well, but I do think the government has fleeced him by using his own ideals this time. I think he looks weak in this; and I kind of hope his caucus helps him out.

  5. It is not entirely irrational for voters and politicians to care about symbolic issues. A symbolic issue may be of little intrinsic importance, but it signals how a party might legislate in other areas. The gun registry has added punch because opinions are divided along the core-periphery cleavage that has long defined Canadian politics. Other issues, like the carbon tax or free trade divided Canadians in a similar fashion. Our MP's are not voting to scrap the gun registry so much as they are voting to confirm their allegiance to Vantoreal or the boonies.

    The troubles of the NDP illustrate the difficulty of being a class-based ideological party in a core-periphery system (this is why the NDP will never replace the Liberals). Workers in the core (plus some urban bleeding hearts) have different preferences than those in the periphery on a number of issues.

  6. But the registry has been set up. The $2 billion is a sunk cost: it's gone, and nothing we can do will get it back. The relevant factor in any decision we make now is not what we paid in the past but what we'll have to pay from here on, that is, the annual cost of maintaining the registry, which the RCMP informs us is less than $4 million a year.

    Agree completely.

    But is there a sunk political cost/benefit that the Harper crowd is trying to resurrect for political gain? If they campaigned hot on the cost overruns of the Long Gun registry at the time of its development – which painted the Liberals as incompetent managers, is there not some benefit in reminding voters by continuing to flog this issue/rekindle it?

    as an aside – when this was underway, I viewed it as simply another Information Technology initiative out of control. Happens in the private sector often enough – though gov'ts tend to draw more than their fair share of catastrophes. IT = Big black box to many.

  7. "RCMP informs us is less than $4 million a year. "

    NO!!! The RCMP report said 80 million dollars a year, it was the lying Police chief's that said it would only cost 4million..

    The RCMP already 'had' a registry of long guns that started with the FAC in the early 70's. Every firearm sold had the buyers information recorded, and then passed on to the RCMP. By the 90's, They had totally, and quietly abandoned it, calling useless and a waste of money. Why is it now they think it's such a good idea? If it was "useless and a waste of money" then, it's still as every bit as useless and a waste of money now. Particularly when it only has less than a 3rd of the legally owned guns in Canada in it! If as the RCMP said in the 90's the Long gun registry is useless, then the 76+ year old handgun registry is every bit as useless. In it's entire 76+ years, it also has never solved a crime or brought a criminal to justice. Registries are political tools only, designed to dupe the urban masses into thinking 'something' is actually being done. When in reality, they have never been successful anywhere in the entire world at reducing criminal violence. The only way to sort this whole mess out, is to repeal the current firearms act, and return to the FAC, It wasn't broke, and they should have left it alone. Read this link and educate yourself as to why the firearms act was changed in the first place, and it had nothing at all to do with Montreal or 14 women
    http://www.diarmani.com/Articles/Birth of the Canadian Gun Registry.htm

    And of course, we should ALL believe the CACP always has our best interests at heart.
    Oh sorry, except for 1980 When they told parliament: "The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is of the firm opinion that a Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms enshrined in a constitution is neither necessary nor desirable"

    Ya that's right, they said that. Scary eh!

    • $4 million just for the long gun registry, register shot guns and rifles.

      The spending for the CFP for 2008-2009 was 86.5M; screening people for licensing, licence renewals, registering restricted and prohibited firearms, safety training,
      administering legal transfer of firearms, etc.

      The myth that the long gun registry cost $2 billion is incorrect; setting up the CFP was $1 billion over 15 years.

      • “Every firearm sold had the buyers information recorded, and then passed on to the RCMP” . . . That's not what I've been told, the information was stored at the gun dealer's place. Stockwell Day wanted to go back to that system.
        2007 OTTAWA — The government has reintroduced a bill to kill the controversial registry for rifles and shotguns.
        Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day says the Harper government promised to abolish the registry and intends to follow through.
        He says the bill means that retailers will still have to record sales of long guns, but individuals won't have to register them.
        My question is what happens to the information during a private sale.
        Registration helps police trace firearms and combat the illegal movement of firearms
        To break up organized networks involved in the illegal movement of firearms, it is necessary to have a traceable commodity. Previously, police had to search manually through thousands of retail records to find the source of any non-restricted firearms recovered at crime scenes. The computerized, centralized CFIS makes it much easier for police to trace and locate the last known owner of these firearms.

  8. "When the Liberals were “divided,” as in the vote to extend the Afghanistan mission in 2006, the NDP leader was among the first to criticize them."

    That's a false equivalency. The NDP's (primary) criticism of the Liberals on issues such as Afghanistan (and abortion and equal marriage) has not been that they were divided or that their leaders fail to whip vote, but rather that these votes demonstrate that the Liberal Party just isn't the progressive alternative to the Conservatives that Liberal leaders like to claim it is at election time.

    In contrast, we don't see Liberals actually criticizing the NDP members voting against the registry, but rather they're just trying "blame Layton" in a most silly and disingenuous way.

  9. I notice that you made the bold claim that the gun registry is of little real use without any independent evidence. So why should we take the word of a newspaper journalist over that of the large majority of police chiefs in the country? After all, someone who makes statements of fact without empirical evidence to support them must obviously feel that their exceptional knowledge on the subject is beyond question.
    Just asking.

    • I just wonder if those police chiefs would be so gungho to step into the policial arena on the GR,
      if they weren't so against PMSHs appointment of Ellliot as their boss.

      • Elliott is the Superintendent of the RCMP, who are only one among many municipal, provincial and (of course) federal organizations represented by the chiefs of police. He’s not the “boss” of the majority in that group. He’s a peer.

    • The police chiefs were paid a lot of money by the software company that built and maintains the registry to say they support it, so their opinions count for very little. Police chiefs would probably like a registry of the medicines people take, and a registry of people's online habits, and a registry of their political thoughts, and a registry of……
      No thanks. We have far too much of a Nanny state as it is, we don't need to turn it into a Police state.

      • Do you have any evidence of this allegation?

        I know supporters of Harper like to keep saying this, but I would be surprised if evidence the chiefs were bribed exists.

        • I don't believe bribery is a valid accusation. However, large financial
          donations by companies that would result in a media frenzy if given
          to a politician have been given to the CACP. CGI does come to mind.
          The appointment of a chief of police is a political one relying more
          on admin/mangaerial skills than policing ones. Do you think Toronto
          would appoint a die hard conservative Chief? Perhaps the CACP should be
          mandated to publish a list of all those donating to the association? They
          are in a public position and apparently have influence.

  10. Common sense would say you should read the report, before saying what did or did not come from it. (perhaps forward a copy to laser guy)

    from pg 66.

    "An overview of the government's expenditures on Firearms throughout the entire program existence, found below, highlights some interesting facets. Expenditures on the CFP have decreased since it has come under the RCMP and are expected to continue in this downward direction. This serves to validate the rationale given in 2006 for moving the CFP to the RCMP, with a $10 million reduction in the overall budget.An exercise that was recently completed to separate out the costs of registration from its supportive link with licensing has demonstrated that portions of the program are actually operating at a much lower cost program than first presumed, even by the RCMP itself. For instance, the gun registration portion of the CFP has been determined, by independent sources, in terms of cost savings to the CFP, at a range of $1.195-$3.65 million for the initial year, and subsequent years will range from $1.57-$4.03 million depending on the classification certification that will still be required."

    My understanding is that when the RCMP took the program over, there were substantial cost saving because they could integrate into other activities. As a result, the above refers to the savings that would result depending on details of the aftermath of cancelling the registry.

    Please don't get me wrong, millions of dollars is still millions of dollars. The figures are in the RCMP report however.

    • The $1.57-4.03 million is for the registration "portion" only. That is, essentially, the cost of postage to confirm registration etc. It still has to be operated. Whether the money comes directly out of government or indirectly out of the RCMP budget, back pocket or front pocket, it still comes out of government revenues. And the total cost for the program no matter whose pocket is being picked is $86.5 million!

      I can think of a lot better things to do with $86.5 million than dump it into a feel good program for the urban crowd. That money could be used to put almost 1200 police officers on the streets in those areas where gangs are prevalent or crime is high. That, to me, is a bigger bang for the buck than a program that does absolutely nothing to prevent gun crime.

  11. It's another government intrusion into people's lives that should be eliminated immediately. It was a useful way for the Liberals to launder government money to flow back to their party coffers and buy votes, but now that the money's wasted we should stop throwing good money after bad.

  12. '' It is certainly true that the costs of setting up the registry were substantial, and outrageous.''

    And perfecting timing for the CPC to remind Canadians how Liberals will spend taxpayer dollars on their special interest groups…. billions of dollars.

    Just imagine the special interest groups that would be handed many more billions by a coalition govt.

    • Um…I think that’s irrelevant and, in the context, a non sequiter

  13. Our whole society is run on 'symbolism'. So is every other one.

    For Canadians: flag, crown, mace, parliament buildings, beavers, maple syrup, Rockies, CN tower etc…all of them mean something to Canadians even if they never personally have anything to do with them. Symbols are psychological. They affect thinking, outlook, emotions etc. They are, as such, very powerful.

    The 'gun registry' is a symbol that Canadians don't have, and don't want, a 'gun culture' like the Americans have. No 'wild west', no quick-draw, no shoot-outs at the OK corral….or the supermarket or on the street, or in schools.

    All part of that 'peace, order and good govt' idea.

    • Too much media – too little objective research.
      Try the IACA & similar organizations.

    • No duck hunting, deer hunting, or that wilderness culture either. While were at it may as well get rid of free speech and property rights. Oops, property rights are already mostly gone. You want peace and good order? Be like Texas. No crook is gonna mess with grandma if he thinks she may be packin heat lol.

  14. Re:
    "On the other hand, there's not much evidence of the registry's effectiveness, either. Its boosters among the nation's police forces say it can be useful, when answering a domestic disturbance, say, to know how many guns are in the house. Which is no doubt true—if the householder has been so good as to register them all. But the best gun registry tells us relatively little about unregistered guns. In sum, the registry is not much use, for not much cost. If it's probably worth keeping, it's probably worth killing as well. It just doesn't matter a great deal either way. That is, if actual costs and benefits are your thing."

    That's it, Coyne? That's the sum total of your analysis of the registry's effectiveness (which leads you to conclude that we should get rid of it)? You didn't bother talking in detail to the police who actually use it? You didn't ask any law enforcement folks for some numbers on, I don't know, how many times it is used per day in Canada or how they track its' effectiveness?

    If you backed up your arguments with some kind of evidence I might consider that you knew what you are talking about. But given that you are journalist (who, by definition, isn't an expert on law enforcement) I have a hard time believing any of this weak column. You are basically doing what you claim law enforcement people are doing (with respect to the long-gun registry): providing little evidence to support your unconvincing argument.

    • If the 'routine check' run links to the registry – how valid is the number of checks?
      A minor traffic stop and CPIC etc check can trigger a check in the registry – how is this
      valid as a perception of use? I have seen numbers quoted but like any statistic – it must
      be subject of an objective analysis. That includes review of the source and their motivation.

      A check confirming possession of a firearms licence should be an indicator that firearms
      may be present. Of course, a person breaking one criminal law might not be too concerned
      about breaking another, therefore I suspect a law enforcement officer who relies on a
      registry check may have other potential issues. A toold of questionable validity/accuracy
      may be worse than none at all….

    • Most frontline cops dont have any use for the registry and would favor it being scrapped according to a survey done in Alberta which the liberals quickly tried to downplay as being unscientific lol. As a cop responding to a residence you assume there may be firearms anyways. Remember! crooks dont register!!!!

  15. Did Mr. Layton critcise the Liberals for not being whipped on the Afghanistan vote? I thought his point was that he disagreed with the Liberals who voted to support the extended mission. It's one thing to criticize Carol Hughes for her vote on the registry, but that's different from critizing Jack Layton for letting her make it.

  16. Andrew Coyne writes: “The relevant factor in any decision we make now is not what we paid in the past but what we’ll have to pay from here on, that is, the annual cost of maintaining the registry, which the RCMP informs us is *less than $4 million a year.*

    Not according to what I read in the actual RCMP report versus what I read in media reports.
    [page 15 - information from Table 2, which I would copy & paste here if I knew how ...]
    Table 2: Direct and Indirect costs incurred by the CFP/RCMP and federal partners in the administration of the CFP.
    
Actual Past Total Expenditures ’95 to ‘07: $1.106.1 million [direct & indirect costs, the latter being costs incurred by other federal depts & reimbursed by CFP]
    
Actual Total Expenditures 2007 – 2008: $63.4 million

    Actual Total Expenditures 2008 – 2009: $67.5 million

    Planned Total Expenditures 2009 – 2010: $76.5 million

    Planned Total Expenditures 2010 – 2011: $76.5 million

    Then on page 66 of the same RCMP report:

    “… Expenditures on the CFP have decreased since it has come under the RCMP and are expected to continue in this downward direction. This serves to validate the rationale given in 2006 for moving the CFP to the RCMP, with a $10 million reduction in the overall budget. An exercise that was recently completed to separate out the costs of registration from its supportive link with licensing has demonstrated that portions of the program are actually operating at a much lower cost program than first presumed, even by the RCMP itself. For instance, the gun registration portion of the CFP has been determined, by independent sources, in terms of cost savings to the CFP, at a range of $1.195-$3.65 million for the initial year, and subsequent years will range from $1.57-$4.03 million depending on the classification certification that will still be required. …”

    Unless I misunderstand that paragraph, the cost of running the registry itself is NOT “less than $4 million a year” as stated here and elsewhere. Those figures — between $1.195 and $4.03 million — are the cost savings to the CFP (Canadian Firearms Program) as a result of the RCMP running it.

    I refer you back to Table 2 on page 15:
    “Planned Total Expenditures 2010 – 2011: $76.5 million”

    • Please tell me the cost of doing back ground checks or screening people who apply for a firearm licence. the cost of renewing firearm licences. etc

      if the long gun registry is scrapped the cost to the CFP will be $76.5 minus $4 million which equals $72.5 million.

      Let's say the long gun registry is scrapped what difference will it make to firearm owners? They have all their firearms already registered right, since they are all law abiding firearm owners.

  17. Wasnt Kyoto symbolism? Kind of sums up the LPC the last 10 years doesnt it?

    • Kyoto is an interesting example: it was certainly international, not just Liberal, symbolism at the time — a symbol that nations cared about the common world; now all these years later, it's a symbol of failure and non-compliance.

      I think politics is very much about the symbolic — they play at our emotions with symbols to get our votes. It's why Harper includes soldiers as a backdrop for certain announcements — or seniors, or little kids. The gun registry itself is a symbol for public safety and government care of citizens — if you are a Liberal; if you are Con, I guess it's a sign of government intervention (or something; it's hard to understand the symbols of others)

      • You are correct in that it is hard to understand the symbolism
        of others. It is however, not impossible. You may agree or not agree but you should
        attempt to understand.
        To a 'Lib' it may be a symbol of caring…. to a 'Conservative' it may be a symbol of ill thought
        out reaction that is expensive and doesn't function that well as a crime control
        measure.

  18. The Canadian Firearms Registry annual operating cost of the program is reported to be $44.6 million.

    The registry again became a political issue in the early 2000s when massive cost overruns were reported.

    At the time of the 2002 audit, the revised estimates from the Department of Justice were that the cost of the program would be more than $1 billion by 2004/05 and that the income from licence fees in the same period would be $140 million.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Firearms_Re

  19. Keep it, get rid of it — I don't know which side of the argument to agree with. But I am disappointed with the media — the stories seem to be all 'they said this' 'the other side said this' 'contentious issue' 'rural versus urban' 'crisis in Canada'. I have yet to hear/read a balanced report which takes the claims of each side and explains how that side arrives at its 'facts' and whether or not either side has more 'facts' on their side.

    21,000 hits on the registry every month — 21 hits specific to gun registry (or long gun registry)? Reduced suicide by long guns — suicide rate unchanged (presumably if a gun is registered people don't use it to commit suicide?)

    How many 'facts' apply to Firearms Certificate as opposed to the registration of individual long guns.

    Somewhere, someone must have done an actual breakdown, but I can't find it anywhere and am very disappointed in our media for their failure to provide useful information instead of sensationalizing the issue. Bah, humbug!

  20. I've always had mixed feelings about the Registry: it seemed like a good idea poorly executed. I really don't get the paranoid reaction from the opponents: unless you are a criminal or have serious plans to start an insurrection, what does it matter if the gov't knows what guns you have? Should we kill it or keep it? I don't really know any more.

    If it would make any difference, here's a possible compromise: ALL gun sales or transfers of ownership MUST be registered. An owner of a legallly purchased gun not currently in the Registry would then not be required to register it until such time as the weapon is sold or given to another (e.g. as part of an estate). Would that work for everyone?

    An aside: best statement in the whole article: "there's nothing wrong with a caucus being “divided” on a vote." We need to get the parties to understand that we did not elect our MPs as proxies for the leaders; the MPs, NOT the PM, cabinet or opposition leaders, are our representatives.

  21. This is hardly “symbolic” to me. I own both semi-automatic rifles and handguns, all purchased legally and all registered according to the law. The Liberals have promised in the past to ban all hand guns and have mused about banning “assault rifles” and semi-automatic firearms. If you don’t think the Liberals will use the long gun registry to shop for rifles and shotguns to ban you don’t know your gun control history. When a government can promise to steal my property without compensation in order to get votes in Toronto, I hope you can understand why I am reluctant to give them a list. The recent confiscations orders issued by the RCMP for Norinco T-97 rifles and High Standard shotguns speaks loudly to those who say fears of confiscation are just paranoia.

    • What do you need handguns for?

      Also do you see a psychiatrist for your paranoia?

      • I use hand guns for the legal purpose of target shooting for which I am required to be a member in good standing with a recognized club. You don’t have to like my hobby but neither do I have to justify any “need” to you.

        • Good answer!
          I don't think the paranoia lies with you.
          I wonder how many can pass the exams, personal background checks and
          clearances to even own a firearm let alone a restricted firearm. I wonder if some
          realize that there are firearms used in the Olympics???

  22. I dont think Harper cares if this goes through or not.A) he has kept an election promise, and as I voted for him, I dont care either. B) it will look like the NDP buckled under the loud shouts of the libbies and Iggy's whipping. Either Way, its a win win for the Cons, and I think the NDP will lose votes! They should be able to vote the way their constituents want, that to me is very relevant.

    • Your conservative MPs aren't allowed to vote the way their constituents want!

      • Sorry, but they are.They are on board with this vote anyway.Nice Try

  23. Even if the long gun registry is abolished, the firearm registry will remain because of hand guns. So implying that you can cut 427 jobs worth of costs by abolishing the long gun portion of the gun registry isn't exactly accurate either. This bill is 100% ideology, the cost overruns of the registry cannot be recovered, and the ongoing maintenance costs are negligible if the police feel it's a tool of any value to them.

    • See Gabby in QC below.

  24. Whether the registry lives or dies will have no impact whatsoever on the vast majority of Canadians, and scarcely more on the minority that pay it close attention.

    And even less on the armed criminals who ignore the registry entirely.

  25. “This needs to be said, and should be repeated every time this comes up: there’s nothing wrong with a caucus being “divided” on a vote. That is simply another name for MPs doing what they were elected to do: represent their riding, either as their conscience or their constituents dictate.”

    Please spare us the pious cant. This is a government bill masquerading as a private members bill. This is not the United States, our system runs on party discipline after consensus is reached and collective decisions are taken in Caucus, whether in government Caucus or opposition Caucus. Stephen Harper is whipping his caucus on this, whether you and any other given apologist for the Harper Conservatives and their hatred of government likes it or not. The gun registry is necessary and useful. Jack Layton has just exposed the fundamental weakness of his leadership. I am still convinced that the whole ‘free vote’ charade was all about Jack trying to stick the knife in Mulcair, who represents the riding where the long gun massacre that gave political impetus to the long gun registry took place. This is all about politics, Coyne – we all know how you hate politics.

    • "The gun registry is necessary and useful."

      The gun registry was political correctness run amok. A feel-good exercise which has contributed squat, as Coyne stated, to crime control.

      Gamil Gharbi, who later changed his name to Marc Lepine, hated this father. Both appear to have hated women. HIs parents separated when he was 7 and he was raised by other families seeing his mother on weekends. Gharbi had clearly become demented when he committed his actions. The guy was a whackjob.

      Scratch a little in the background of most crinminals and you'll see children being raised in broken homes with poor or no role models.

      Strong marriages and families and rooted communities where people look out for one another prevents crime.

      • Why is it relevant that he changed his name? Why do so many conservatives insist on referring to him as Gharbi when he real name was Lepine?

        • I don't think it matters about his name.
          He was obviously a mentally deranged individual who hated and
          believed he would get his time of fame by killing. The media certainly
          obliged him.

          The firearms aspect of his crime is of reduced relevance but somehow it is easier
          to blame the gun as opposed to the person. I think he would have found a way to
          kill no matter what. The tragedy is that the registry may have proved he owned
          the firearm – would this have saved his victims?
          Driving a vehicle into a crowd or people has also been done. Maybe the answer lies in 'people
          control' laws…..wait a minute….

  26. What is a gun registry?

  27. You just phoned this one in, Coyne: not only for failing to do any additional research yourself re: why the chiefs think it’s worth keeping, but also for misunderstanding & repeating the misconceptions about the cost.

    For one thing, it was $1-B for it’s first 10 years development, not $2. And that wasn’t just for the “list,” it was for the whole FIrearms Program associated with long guns — the licensing, the screening, the training, the enforcement, among other things. Similarly, the current $80-M or so net annual budget is for the whole Firearms Centre (which also runs the restricted arms — handguns — database & registration & training & licensing protocols), not just the long gun database.

    Granted, it’s hard to pin down how much the latter is (the $1.6M-4M annually might just be what the RCMP is _saving_ on it compared to how it was done before); I’m guessing it’s more like $10-M a year, when we include all the postage for sending all the notices & forms back & forth when people transfer registrations, & prorate a portion of the Firearms’ operating costs to it. Someone — ahem, perhaps a journalist? — should try to pin that down for the public.

    • Hmmmmm …. the AG couldn’t get the numbers on the registry but you seem privy to all the important numbers involved . Please , fill us all in on how cost effective this bureauctatic monstrosity really is .

  28. The recently released RCMP evaluation of the Canadian Firearms Program contains two interesting tidbits besides recycling the same old canards that Canada's long-gun registry is an important tool for law enforcement.

    First, the report clearly states that its primary focus is on ordinary citizens who own firearms because they might commit suicide, not violent criminals. Perhaps Canadians would be safer if we put more violent offenders in prison?

    • Since 2005, approx 11,000 people had their firearm licence revoked. They were deemed to be a threat to public safety. Do we still let these people keep the firearms even though they had their firearm licence revoked?

      • No – if your licence is gone – so are your firearms and it is a criminal
        offence to be in possession without a licence. Note that revoked and
        expired are different but essentially have the same potential penalties.
        Police may obtain a search warrant and seize any/all firearms found
        in addition to any turned in on the licence being revoked.

  29. Second, the report admits that the registry costs over $20 million per year, not the paltry four million the Chiefs of Police claimed earlier this year.

    However, research shows that police officers cannot and should not trust the information in the registry. Less than half of all firearms in Canada are included, and of course, none of the guns owned by criminals. In approaching dangerous situations, the police must always assume there is a weapon.

    There is no convincing evidence supporting the claim that the long-gun registry has had any effect on homicide, suicide, or domestic violence rates. Homicide rates have been essentially flat since the long-gun registry was introduced in 2001. The long-gun registry has not saved any lives.

    GARY MAUSER
    Professor Emeritus
    Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies
    Faculty of Business Administration
    Simon Fraser University

  30. How many more Liberal boodoggles will Mr Harper's minority government have to rationalise? Given a working majority, his government might actually have time to create something.

  31. I realize that Canadian police forces love the registry because it gives them the ability to pre-screen homes that they are entering to ascertain whether or not firearms are present. This, unfortunately, gives them a false sense of security. To the best of my knowledge, the Canadian government has NO idea of the level of compliance; there are many, many long gun owners out there who have either not registered any of their guns or registered a select few. Since I know that is the case, surely Canadian police forces would be wise enough to realize that they should approach every home with the same amount of caution whether the home’s residents show up on the gun registry or not.

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

  32. Jonathan at Macleans…

    FYI…Firefox refuses to load the IntenseDebate comments for this post only.

  33. Police budgets are comprised of calls for service for everything related to long guns and not necessarily only “criminals”- suicide calls (the police come), assaults (the police come), unsafe storage and use (the police come). There are investigations which go along with these incidents. The faster they can clear these incidents through checking the registry, the cheaper it is for all of us. $4 mill ion to help all police services is an excellent investment.

  34. "Its boosters among the nation's police forces say it can be useful, when answering a domestic disturbance, say, to know how many guns are in the house."

    This is disingenuous. Frankly, this entire column was disappointing and not up to your usual standard. While I respect your opinion, though I disagree with it, you have failed to support said opinion.

  35. While i do not know where the $4 million number comes from (i have not been able to find it myself), it's not true that eliminating the gun registry removes all costs from the canadian firearms program (the figures you quoted above) which also includes registration of handguns, and administration of the safety program, which this bill will not remove.

    The cost savings for merely removing a large portion of entries from a database that will continue to exist for restricted weapons is largely going to come down to forms no longer needing to be submitted, which may well be on the order of $4M. However a source would be nice, yes.

  36. Wow,

    I was shocked to read a comment by the actual Dr. Gary Mauser. He’s a legend in the firearm rights community!

    I really want to take a course taught by him, but I’m stuck at UVIC.

  37. There is something wrong with Andrew Coyne’s story about firearms. It does not work with Firefox. Other columns are fine. It’s just this column that has developed a problem. Others have have the same problem. I sent an email about this today. Is anybody paying attention?

  38. So why are we debating the fate of the lgr? Kill it and put it out of its misery. And, Mr. Coyne, why don't you do something honourable and say so, because this is the logical conclusion of your string of words.

  39. I note that Gary Mauser’s comment, that none of the guns belonging to criminals would be registered, promulgates the myth told and retold by NRA types everywhere. They seem to believe that the world can be neatly divided into 2 camps – criminals and the rest of us. This level of thinking from a University professor? Really??? Professor Mauser, I pity your students.

    Mr. Coyne, I enjoy your columns and your independent viewpoint. In this case, however, the logic is lacking. The strongest reason for disbanding the registry is that it’s unreliable because it’s incomplete. Why is it incomplete? Because people won’t obey the law? Why won’t they obey the law? Because they’re convinced the registry is of no use. Why is it of no use? Well, mostly because it’s unreliable and incomplete. That’s called circular logic.

  40. If it so important to the government and their support base to kill the LGR,, then why is it being brought in as a private member’s bill? This in itself is suspect, re; is this being used to create a political advantage?

  41. I’m using firefox and have no problems of any kind.

    • Can you see the thumbs up or down? What version are you using?

  42. Wouldn’t it be a novel idea to actually hold some politician responsible for the spending of taxpayer $$$ for the creation of the registry? Its always amusing seeing the banter left VS right but never any actual accountability for what has transpired. Regardless of the opinion one may have on whether the registry is useful or needed, why don’t people actually consider asking standing government to investigate the politicians and lobbyists who were responsible for the spending of tax $$$???

    I doubt the liberals would have been able to pass the law in the 90′s to establish the registry and change the long standing firearms system had they only had a minority in Ottawa… And now so vocal against measures to clean up a mess they made… How many years of savings from not having the registry around until break even for the initial outlay of setting it up? Food for thought.

  43. A very important problem overlooked is the right of self defense;which is removed from the owner of a domicile when a criminal enters ones abode. One would never have time to go and unlock a weapon for protection, and then have to go to a separate location to get ammunition to then load said gun!

    But that is just the beginning of the problem,as by present law you must use”EQUAL FORCE;” you would have to ask the thief, perhaps in the dark at night, does he have a weapon with him, and what exactly is it? What is your response at that point,given that fact that it is highly unlikely that the thief doesn’t already have the drop on you,… so to speak?

    Most nations support the notion that the homeowner’s interior space is sacrosanct,and I would hasten to hope, that so does are Charter of Rights and Freedoms,or it is simply not worth the price of the paper it’s written on?!

    Finally I think it is very self serving for the police and our courts to defend the registry; but not the average citizen,especially when given the fact; at least the police forces carry a sidearm, and we are left totally vulnerable in our homes..What a joke! These lopsided laws only protect intruders,and arguably, perhaps the police!

  44. Four millon per, yea right. Didn't someone other than those dead-honest, non-political police chiefs state the annual bill is over $70 mil. Shame on you for parroting this myth. This is nothing more than elitist academics supported by brain dead uneducated socialists proving they are not Americans. They would rather see us evolve into a lawless society ruled by corrupt police and drug gangs ala Mexico than have people be in a position to protect themselves.

  45. i personally think they should keep the long gun registry, because think of all the lives that have been taken from people by a long gun. this registry isnt saying that hunters and people in rural communities are criminals its just sim ply being more careful of who they give theyr guns outto, because its our future and our children we want to protect. i as a student as delhi in grade have put alot of thought into this and i strongly think its a very good use of money if its saving lives, which in fact it has been.

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