05/16/2012 12:11 EDT | Updated 07/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Why it Was Right to Shoot Down the Long Gun Registry


The squabble over the federal government legislating an end to long gun registry shows few signs of dying down.

Apparently the government, through Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, doesn't even want people who buy firearms to have their names registered by the store, or the serial numbers of rifles recorded.

OPP Supt. Chris Wyatt has been quoted saying, in effect, that if the federal government doesn't want records of gun owners kept, the government should say so specifically in legislation. Otherwise, why shouldn't stores that sell guns keep a record of who purchases them?

Why the feds are bellyaching over this, is beyond reason.

So what if a gun store records the identity of someone purchasing a rifle?

By objecting to, or accusing the province of instigating a "back-door" gun registry to foil the cancellation of a national registry, is just plain silly.

Remember, the long gun registry was abandoned because its costs stretched into billions of dollars (from an original estimate of $2 million), and probably as many people didn't declare their guns, as those who registered them.

It was a foolish law from the start, in that it made criminals out of farmers and people in rural areas who didn't trust government assurances, or simply couldn't be bothered to register their rifles and shotguns.

In 2011 there were some 7.8 millions guns registered in Canada. The National Firearms Association estimates there were up to 21 million guns in Canada in 1993, owned by roughly six million Canadians. What does that tell you? It tells you the unenforceable law was making a lot of decent Canadians into criminals.

End of argument as to why the registry was -- and deserved to be -- scrapped.

And the registry did little to curb crimes committed with guns. Most criminals use hand guns, and there's always been a requirement to register these. Again, when guns are used in crimes, they are usually not registered.

By abandoning long gun registry, the federal government is saving the taxpayer considerable billions. If senior provincial police officers and local politicians feel safer if store owners record the identities of those who buy guns, so what? It'll cost nothing, back door or no back door.

More significantly, why should individuals of the gun-buying public care if they are recorded as gun owners? If you don't intend to use it for a crime, why is anonymity important?

We register when we buy automobiles, or get a driver's license. What's the difference with a gun if you don't intend to shoot someone or rob a bank?

Instigating the gun registry in the first place created a prejudice that lingers today. There's something sinister about wanting to own a gun -- or even owning one.

When I was a kid in Barrie, I bought a .22 calibre rifle at Robinson's hardware store (where I once had a summer job). No one paid heed when Jim Coutts and I would carry our .22s through downtown Barrie on our way to shoot crows and groundhogs in local fields. These days, a toy gun is liable to provoke a swat team reaction.

People bristle at the idea of being listed as a gun owner -- as if they'll be nabbed in a midnight raid. It's a bit like people who oppose babies being fingerprinted, in case future identification is needed. Unless the baby is likely to become a criminal, why not have everyone's fingerprints recorded? It might be invaluable for tracing lost children.

Anyway, the gun registry is no more -- and too costly to ever be re-imposed.