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Harper has long-gun registry in the crosshairs

by The Concordian November 8, 2011
Harper has long-gun registry in the crosshairs
The Quebec government is requesting to keep its long-gun registry records, just as the Conservative federal government plans on scrapping the entire thing, a controversial move a lot of people are questioning.
The registry was put in place in 1995, after the tragic Polytechnique massacre in Montreal in 1989. It costs $2.2 billion and holds the records of more than 7.1 million guns acquired in the past decade in Canada. The Conservative government, however, sees it as useless, saying it singles out rifle-carrying farmers and hunters who follow the rules.
The only Canadian provinces that are in favor of abolishing the long gun registry are Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, all Harper strongholds with large rural areas.
However, that is the only reason the long-gun registry should be abolished. Maria Peluso, a Concordia political science professor and anti-gun activist, has been involved with the long-gun registry for an extended period of time. She said that if the Harper government removed the registry, something that has been scientifically proven to save lives, it would put Canadian lives in danger, under section 7 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Everyone is entitled to their security and their lives, and the government is deliberately putting our lives in danger right now. Where is the security for our life?” said Peluso.
Harper also argued that registering all guns is useless because people need to get a license to own guns in Canada anyway. He failed, however, to realize that registration and licensing aren’t the same thing. Once you have a gun licensed, it does not have to be renewed again, whereas registration gives you many advantages, such as having “registered” gun users in a database, complete with names and addresses.
“The government has no revenue whatsoever with gun licensing,” said Peluso. “It’s terrible that there are so many more licenses than registrations.”
The data acquired since 1995 is overwhelming. On average, every single police station in Canada uses the registry about 14,385 times a day. Denis Côté, head of the Fédération des policiers et policières municipaux du Québec, recently told The Gazette that a big majority of average daily searches of the federal registry are conducted by Quebec.
Crime associated with long-gun use has also gone down significantly (65 per cent), according to Peluso, since the insertion of the long-gun registry. These numbers cannot be ignored, but Harper’s majority is blinding him.
Quebec and Ontario are, so far, the only provinces to request to keep their long-gun registry data. The data would in fact be very useful to police stations and government officials in both provinces. The Conservatives haven’t yet made the decision of whether or not they will give this information to Quebec.
Quebec is also emotionally involved in the gun registry. Three of the most tragic incidents involving shootings in Canada happened here: the Polytechnique massacre (1989), the Concordia shootings (1992), and the Dawson College shooting (2006). An enormous database with everyone who possesses guns would therefore be of critical importance to the provincial government.
Quebec and Ontario also hold the most registered users in the system, and have almost half of Canada’s entire population. To scrap it would be a huge loss, especially for these provincial governments.
Joe Couto, a spokesperson for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, recently told The Gazette that it would make sense to link potential provincial gun registries because police officers in both Ontario and Quebec already share a lot of gun-related information. “If Quebec moved that way Ontario would most likely consider it,” he said.
Let’s agree, however, that this is not a perfect world. Keeping the long-gun registry here in Quebec doesn’t mean that everyone in possession of a long-gun would be in our database, many being able to slip under the radar with guns acquired from the growing black market. However, it would allow us to keep an eye on most citizens in possession of such dangerous firearms. To have to start from scratch here in Quebec would most certainly not happen because of the enormous costs associated with it.
So we must ask ourselves a critical question: why is Stephen Harper hesitating to give Quebec its own records? The “innocent farmers and hunters with rifles” don’t really apply here, because most of our population lives in cities. Is it really so that farmers and hunters are put at ease? There are bigger issues at stake here, such as the safety of our citizens from dangerous firearms.

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