Much more to say on the gun registry

  • Subtitle: Human Rights . . . Here & There
Written by  Posted Date: September 10, 2012
b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_Columnists_sonyanigam.jpgWhile we are all in a period of adjusting from summer mode to fall activities, I find the mood to be more sombre than in previous years. Perhaps it is because I am in the sandwich generation — between aging parents and university-aged children, both of whom require time and assistance. Perhaps it is because I can see that no matter how hard we work to eliminate problems, new ones arise.

The recent shootings that have taken place over the summer in Toronto, Edmonton, and just recently at the Parti Quebecois rally in Montreal are clear examples. Overall levels of crime are down, but gun violence appears to be rising. What is puzzling, however, is why the gun registry debate became so heated and polarized in the first place, and why it was eliminated.

Most Canadians are not interested in owning a gun. However, some are collectors, or use firearms for sport or for self-protection.

Individuals can choose to lend their energy to activities to help or to harm. The difficulty, of course, is that human beings are a highly imperfect species and we often get things mixed up. We invent all kinds of reasons for being unnecessarily aggressive, forceful, and sometimes violent. Often there is no reason involved at all; we simply react, or have lost control of our minds.

Considering the human tendency to over-react, policies that restrict and discourage the use of guns as a tool for self-defence are common sense.

While the long-gun registry was not perfect, it was seen as a tool by chiefs of police across the country to at least have some control of the firearms in Canada. For lobby groups that advocated for the registry, it was a symbol of Canadian urban social values that resist the proliferation of firearms in our communities.

For those lobbying against the registry, the initial arguments focused on the unnecessary expense of creating the system in the first place, the unfair financial burden placed on firearm owners, and that the data gathered would be of no use in any case.

The passage of Bill C-19, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act, triggered a constitutional challenge by Quebec and an injunction against the destruction of the Quebec data and related IT infrastructure. Quebec argues that under s. 92(13), it has the right to legislate in the area of property and civil rights which includes the creation of a gun registry. Destruction of the data by the federal government would impede this power. Like police forces in other parts of Canada, the long-gun registry is believed to be a useful tool to control the numbers of guns in the province.

In addition, the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic has filed an application before the Ontario Superior Court to have Bill-C-19 declared unconstitutional, arguing that it violates women’s right to security and equality under s. 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The City of Toronto has added its voice to the injunction to preserve the data until the constitutional challenge is determined.

In reaction to these court challenges, the Canadian Shooting Sports Association is encouraging gun owners to swap and sell their firearms in order to render the long-gun registry data useless. While a clever trick against an imperfect system, this is highly cynical effort that is contrary to the rule of law and should be roundly condemned by politicians of all stripes.

This tactic begs the question as to what the real reason for opposing the registry was. It appears to be more of a privacy and fear of confiscation issue than about efficiency of the registry. If these were the main issues of the opponents of the registry, Canadians were entitled to hear these arguments and time should have been offered to focus on fine-tuning the implementation of the legislation, rather than just eliminating it.

Canadians deserve better than being drawn in to U.S.-style wedge politics, pitting law-abiding citizens against each other. We deserve a full debate and discussion of this complex problem, including the issues of border control, sentencing, and gang violence so we can decide how best to manage the millions of firearms that are in our country. We are mature enough to know that sometimes we can’t just do what we want to do because we want to do it. We can be more than pawns in political games, but only if we demand more from our politicians.

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+8 # RE: Much more to say on the gun registryLaserGuy 2012-09-10 10:45
The sad thing is, if Barbra Schlifer had been armed like many American women, she would probably be alive today and there would be no Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. I don't believe that Canadian women are too stupid to handle a self defense firearm or even a can of mace, but that seems to be the thinking of the victim disarmament groups that without victims, their funding would surely dry up..So it's NOT about safety for women, it's about money, and it always will be.
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+7 # Sure, say more, but be honest.Dean Speir 2012-09-10 11:58
O, so NOW you advocate "hearing these arguments" and taking "time … to focus on fine-tuning the implementation of the legislation?" Where were your and similar voices when the Liberal Party was ramming through their gun control initiatives in the wake of the hysteria following the École Polytechnique murders in 1989? Why do you not acknowledge the utter uselessness of the registration portion of Bill C-68? You don't know much about guns, don't like them, and don't want anyone to have them in the myopic belief that everyone will be safer. Time to be honest, Ms. Nigam.
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+6 # RE: Much more to say on the gun registryJim Pook 2012-09-10 19:36
You say "this is highly cynical effort that is contrary to the rule of law..."

While I am not a lawyer, I fail to see how selling and buying long-guns is illegal now that C19 is the law of the land.

C19 rids us of the need to record the sale or purchase of long-guns in the old, now non-existent long-gun registry. We may now freely buy and sell long-guns amongst ourselves lawfully.

While Quebec has won in court, it has not yet gone the full distance to the Supreme Court, which it most certainly will.

Also, throw in the fact that there has been an amnesty in place for many years, the data is as useless as last years racing form.

Now is the time to quit playing games and follow the will of parliament - just like we did in 1995 when the Liberals brought in this horrible legislation.
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+5 # Where are your facts fromRambo 2012-09-13 14:27
From where do you get your statistical data when you state that "most Canadians are not interested in owning a gun?" I bet that the actual numbers of Canadian private gun ownership would probably surprize you.
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+2 # Useless LawsMichael 2012-09-13 16:35
I am a gun owner. I use my firearms for sports and recreation. As a distant second place, I am aware that I have my firearms for self protection. Particularly in rural areas police response time can be measured in hours, at best minutes, when it is seconds that count. I currently only have long guns but will soon be obtaining restricted firearms (handguns)

As a gun owner the registry was a minor annoyance that I was prepared to put up with. As a taxpayer it was a major waste of money and effort. It did nothing measurable to lower the crime rate or the illegal use of firearms. It was a 'feel good' measure cynically imposed by the liberal government of the day as a knee-jerk reaction to an isolated tragic occurrance - the shooting at l'Ecole Polytechnique.

Focus on the real reasons behind the shooting and correct them. Don't blame the tool used by a maniac.
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+2 # RE: Much more to say on the gun registryGlen 2012-09-13 17:42
The long gun registry cost billions of dollars and made Canadians no safer. The police are always in favor of increased powers and means of surveillance.

That is all there really is to say.
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0 # RE: Much more to say on the gun registryBOB SMITH 2013-02-11 14:14
the long gun registry was a complete failure and a waste of the tax payers money.
the justice system in this country is a total embassment.the courts place very little value on victims of crime. instead, its what can do for the accused.make sure his rights aren"t violated and on it goes. nothing about the victim or the families of the victims. what about their rights.
don't blame gun crimes on law abiding gun owners.most gun crimes are committed by criminals and outlaw gangs.take away the guns from law abiding
gun owners, the criminals will be the ones with guns
and gun crimes will continue.crimin als don't give a dam about laws. get tough on people who use guns to
commit crime and leave lawful gun owners alone their
not the ones causing the problem.
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Sonya Nigam

Sonya Nigam is Director, Office of Human Rights at the University of Ottawa. She can be reached at snigam@uottawa.ca

Column: Human Rights . . . Here & There

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