Dec. 18, 2002
There must be a number of hunters and gun collectors across Northumberland County sitting back feeling pretty smug right now. An estimated $1 billion has been spent on implementing universal firearms registration. No doubt they are saying “I told you so” or some version of it.
In 1995, the Canadian government introduced firearms registration. The plan is to license all gun owners. Initially, the target was to have this completed by Jan. 1, 2001. The original cost estimate was no more than $85 million over five years. By March 2001, the cost skyrocketed to $600 million over three years.
Beside accusations of mismanagement, the registry was targeted as being an abuse of individual privacy and property rights. Gun owners complained they were demonized and this was the reason for the massive increase in government intrusion.
Then two weeks ago, the lid flew off when Auditor General Sheila Fraser revealed the uncontrolled costs and massive mismanagement, leading to accusations of secret approvals of funds and failure to report to members of parliament and the public. The affect further hurts Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and is spilling over on other members of cabinet including Liberal leadership hopefuls Paul Martin and Alan Rock.
Within no time, the old wound was gushing once more.
The Law-abiding Unregistered Firearms Association was quick to react, bashing away. The non-profit organization located in Edmonton, has 20,000 members across the country with the sole purpose of fighting the legislation. It was able to make a constitutional challenge, but lost in a 9-0 decision. It says there are four million gun owners who refuse to be licenced and registered.
The Police Association of Ontario waded in very quickly. It claims there is little evidence the registry is an effective way to prevent homicides or other firearms-related deaths. About 30 per cent of homicides in Canada each year involve firearms, an unchanged statistic over the past two years. There have been 55 homicides in Toronto, so far in 2002, compared to about 60 in each of the past five years. This compares to about 88 people who died in car accidents over the same period.
So, there, say gun owners. How can you argue? Leave us alone. This is our right. It is our heritage. Voices across the county and the country are uniting in self-satisfaction.
But this is wrong. What gun owners and collectors fail to realize is there two separate issues at hand that sane people recognize. While the mismanagement of taxpayers money and the disregard for accountability is reprehensible, the principles behind the legislation remain sound and should be supported.
One of the key reasons for the high costs of the program is the deliberate effort by gun owners not to register weapons. If the unregistered firearms association is correct, it is abhorrent to have four million people deliberately break the law.
Since the registry was introduced, there has been a gleeful pride in flouting the legislation. Leaders of these movements have openly urged people not to register their guns. In several conversations with local gun owners, the resolve is unlike any other. There is NO WAY they will register.
Over my dead body, one said.
Exactly. Accept it is not your body.
The occurrence of homicides involving firearms has increased to 56 per cent from 39 since 1997.
One half of all murdered women were shot to death. Every six days in Canada, a woman is shot to death by a man with a handgun, rifle or shotgun, according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
And we should never forget the 14 women killed at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on Dec. 6, 1989. It was this incident which forged the legislation.
Only two weeks ago, there was another incident in Ontario where a man who killed his wife then turned a gun on himself and committed suicide.
And while it was treated with some amusement in the media, about a month ago, a Brighton area woman found a bullet embedded in the wall of her cupboard. It turned out to be a stray bullet fired by local hunters.
Unfortunately, the gun owners who refuse to register forget we live in a democratic society. An election was fought over this issue. Local activists hammered former Northumberland MP Christine Stewart. She was voted back. The lobby lost locally and across the country. The Liberals have won two elections since. It appears Canadians have spoken quite clearly.
A portion of the cost is the repeated attempts to get gun owners to register. There have been campaigns to burden the system with paper work in an effort to bring down the bureaucracy. No wonder it costs $1 billion.
If the battle must continue, the way to fight this is through the courts and at the ballot box. Not through civil disobedience. It is time to move on. Guns must be registered by Jan. 1, 2003.
Enough of this anarchy. It has cost law-abiding citizen nearly a billion dollars. Yes, the federal government must be held accountable. And, so do you.