Outlaw the registry and focus on outlaws

By MPP Toby Barrett

For 17 years now, I have heard concerns about the ineffectiveness of the long gun registry and its targeting of law-abiding citizens. People want an effective solution that keeps our communities safe.

There is no debate. We need effective ways of dealing with gun crime. That is not the issue. The long gun registry does not deal with gun crime – it is wasteful and does nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. The long gun is not the weapon of choice for criminals. For the most part, they use handguns. Canada has had a handgun registry since 1934 and it will remain in place.

There is no evidence the long gun registry has made a difference in crime rates. In fact, firearms-related homicide has been in a steady decline since the 1970s. Long guns do not factor heavily into crimes. In instances where they do, there is no evidence the registration of the firearm has any impact on combating the crime.

The federal Conservatives introduced legislation titled Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act a few weeks ago to fulfill a long-standing part of their platform. The legislation will:

* Repeal the requirement to register non-restricted firearms
* Provide for the destruction of all records pertaining to the registration of long guns currently contained in the Canadian Firearms Registry and under the control of the Chief Firearms Officer
* Maintain controls over restricted and prohibited firearms.

Under the proposed reforms, owners of firearms will still require a valid license to purchase or possess firearms, and to purchase ammunition. They will also be required to undergo police background checks, pass a firearms safety training course and comply with firearms safe storage and transportation requirements. In addition, individuals will continue to be required to register prohibited and restricted firearms, such as handguns.

Many proponents of the long gun registry say it is easy and straightforward. This is not my own experience, and not what I hear from constituents. The process is confusing and can be intimidating.

Some of the federal Conservative MPs who debated the legislation are retired RCMP and police officers. They believe officers should always assume there is a possibility of guns being present regardless of registration. In fact, MP Garry Breitkreuz, a long-time gun registry opponent, says 92 per cent of front-line officers say they have no use for the registry. While statistics show a high number of inquiries into the registry, it is an automatic every time there is a record check with CPIC.

The possibility of an Ontario registry brings the topic into the provincial realm. Premier Dalton McGuinty denied the possibility, but then again this is the same guy who twice said he wouldn’t raise taxes. In 2007, the provincial Liberals asked the federal government for a handgun ban after the shooting death of Jordan Manners in Toronto. This request was rejected. As Opposition we oppose both a handgun ban and a provincial long gun registry.

This remains a federal issue, but is the one issue I’ve heard the most about since the recent election. For 17 years, I have spoken out against the long gun registry and am glad to see it is on its way out.