This article was originally posted at Persephone Magazine. Reposted with permission of Persephone and the author, Millie. Millie is a perpetual grad student, an internationally recognized curmudgeon, and an occasional hugger of trees. She also makes a mean batch of couscous.
Last week, the Conservatives tabled legislation to not only scrap the long gun registry, but also to destroy all the data it currently holds, and again used closure* to shut down debate on it. The registry has reduced gun deaths overall by about 45% since it was introduced, but the Conservatives say it’s too expensive and infringes on the rights of hunters and rural citizens.
Here’s how we got the long gun registry in the first place. On December 6th, 1989, a misogynistic man walked into a classroom at École Polytechnique, an engineering college associated with Université de Montréal, armed with a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle, told the men to leave, declared he was “fighting feminism,” and shot the nine women left in the room (six of whom died). He went on to kill eight more women, and injure seven more women and four men, before turning the gun on himself. December 6th is now National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, and after considerable public outcry (especially in Québec), the long gun registry was enacted in 1995. Just writing that paragraph makes my gut clench in anger.
To legally obtain a long gun in Canada, the potential owner must apply for a permit, and the gun itself must be registered. Police services across the country have access to this registry, so that guns involved in crimes can be traced, and also so police officers can check if, when responding to a call at a residence, they expect that the owner has a gun, and take appropriate precautions. Permits must be renewed every five years, currently. Handguns have been regulated since the 1930s, and are not covered by this legislation.
The effect that the long gun registry has had on gun ownership, gun crime, and gun deaths is stark. The CBC, bastion of excellent information that it is, helpfully compiled this list of statistics about the state of guns in Canada. While the whole list is worth a read, I want to focus specifically on a part at the bottom of the first section:
Since the long gun registry came in in 1995, gun deaths have decreased by 45%. This is across all demographics, all ages, all genders. That’s a huge improvement — the rate of death by long gun has been almost halved, just by having the guns registered. But the reduction of the rate of spousal homicide (which, overwhelming, is femicide — about 80% of spousal deaths are men killing women) is a whopping 74%. Three quarters of women’s deaths by gun at the hands of their spouse can be reduced just by adding a few hoops for the gun owner.
And that’s just deaths: I couldn’t find any current statistics on gun injuries inflicted by spouses (again, overwhelmingly likely to be men injuring women), but I’d wager that if gun deaths are decreased by that much with the registry, then gun injuries inflicted by a spouse are likely also drastically reduced.
So this is a registry that helps keep women and police officers safer. It’s reduced gun deaths, injuries, and suicide rates (which are almost 5 times higher in households that have guns). It’s proven effective and is widely used — the registry is accessed about 17,000 times a day. All this is fact, not opinion.
Think about all those numbers in the CBC article for a few minutes, and let them sink in and percolate. Read more