Is the gun registry a failure or a success? Recent letters have shed
little light on the question even though they were stuffed with
statistics. It's time to compare competing claims.
Anti-gun zealots claim the registry is working because gun deaths have
declined since the long-gun registry began in 2001. The primary
problem with this claim is that counting gun deaths is not an
appropriate way to measure success. Gun laws should improve public
safety, not just reduce one way of killing. Would Canadians be safer
if murderers somehow abandoned guns for knives and bombs?
Gun death accounting ignores the problem of "substitution."
Eliminating just one of the many alternative weapons is not likely to
reduce murders or suicides. Two examples illustrate this point.
First, in many countries where guns are banned, such as Mexico and the
former Soviet Union, the murder rates are more than 10 times greater
than in Canada. Second, suicides in Canada involving shootings have
dropped over the past few decades, while hangings have increased
correspondingly so that there is little net change in overall suicide
rate. You decide: Does this make the gun registry a success?
One of the original justifications for the gun registry was that it
would protect vulnerable women. Unfortunately, no changes are seen:
More domestic murders continue to be committed with kitchen knives
than with firearms.
The best measures to use in evaluating the gun registry are murder and
suicide rates. The statistics are unequivocal: the gun registry has
not had a meaningful impact on either. The homicide rate had fallen
impressively before 2001 but has remained relatively stable since.
Due primarily to a booming economy and an aging population, the
homicide rate slipped from 2.7 per 100,000 in 1991 to 1.8 in 2000.
After the long-gun registry was introduced, the homicide rate had
risen to 2.0 by 2005.
The gun registry has failed to improve public safety. It is time we
stopped wasting money on harassing hunters and target shooters. We
should focus on jailing violent criminals and repeat offenders. Study
after study has shown that almost all (85 to 99 per cent) guns used by
criminals are smuggled into Canada and have never been registered. The
Conservatives under Stephen Harper are introducing laws that will
actually improve public safety. Research backs up common sense;
putting violent criminals and repeat offenders in jail longer
significantly reduces crime rates. Liberals continue to be more
concerned with the rights of criminals than the safety of Canadians.
Gary Mauser, professor emeritus,
Simon Fraser University
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Canadian gun registry not working