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Canada’s gun registry has proven very useful

Elizabeth Mandelman | PostedJuly 13th, 2009 | North America

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The following letter was published on July 3, 2009, in the Guelph Mercury newspaper.  The letter was written in response to another published submission speaking out against Canada’s Firearms Act and asserting that the registry does not prevent crime.  It was written by Dr. Barbara Kane, a psychiatrist based in Prince George, British Columbia, who has worked in the field for many years.

The letter does an excellent job of describing why the registry is useful and should be maintained.  Rather than adding more commentary, I’m going to let it speak for itself.

Canada’s gun registry has proven very useful

GuelphMercury.com – Opinions – Canada’s gun registry has proven very useful.

Dr. Barbara Kane
Dear Editor – I am writing in response to a recent letter stating that the gun registry had not solved or prevented a single crime.

As a psychiatrist in a rural area where guns are prevalent, I have invoked the gun registry at times where it is necessary, to either get someone’s guns removed or prevent them from getting guns because of mental illness. I am sure this has prevented tragedies but, unfortunately, none of those events make headlines.

I practised psychiatry in Prince George, B.C., before the gun registry was available, and it was difficult then to have guns removed.

There have been some 22,000 licences denied to date, and a recent Ottawa Citizen article reported that the number of firearms surrendered and confiscated since Nov. 1 is 8,281 — 74 per cent of which were nonrestricted shotguns and rifles. The same article reports that the reason for these confiscations is usually that the individual has threatened or used violence.

So, are we really comfortable with allowing these people to arm themselves by removing the mechanism which allows authorities to locate and remove firearms, the long-gun registry?

It is impossible to truly measure the prevention of suicides, accidents and crimes. However, we can measure rates of all these over time. We know the incidence of gun deaths and injuries are at their lowest levels in more than 30 years. Since 1995, the rate of homicide with rifles and shotguns has dropped by 50 per cent, and gun-related murders of women have fallen by two-thirds.

The gun registry is an inconvenience for hunters, farmers and other gun owners, but it helps people like me and the police prevent tragedies.

Since gun owners are only required to register their firearms once per gun, it is a minor inconvenience that is having a major impact on gun crime, suicides and accidents, perhaps more than any other intervention we have. The registry needs to be preserved.

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10 Responses to “Canada’s gun registry has proven very useful”

  1. Sarajane says:

    One never hears about the people that were denied gun licenses, I can only imagine the number of lives and limbs saved by the confiscation of thousands of guns…

  2. DaveC says:

    Dr Kane is guilty of making the same mistake as you, Elizabeth.

    Both of you — and all of your supporters too — are CONFUSED.

    The Registry records guns.

    The LICENSING SYSTEM records Gun Owners.

    I’m astounded that otherwise smart people are incapable of distinguishing the vast differences the Registry and Licensing.

    The Registry prevents criminal and stupid behavior as well as car registration prevents people doing stupid and criminal activities with cars.

    The handgun registry has existed in Canada since the 1930s. It has neither solved nor prevented a single crime.

    PLEASE get your facts straight.

  3. Mark says:

    I respect the good doctor’s intentions with regard to reporting mentally unstable and potentially dangerous individuals and by doing so attempting to limit their access to firearms.

    It should be noted however that the framework for reporting individuals who may pose a danger to themselves or others to the RCMP for the purposes of restricting access to firearms is a component of the LICENSING program, and not the Canadian Firearms REGISTRY.

    Registration is the cataloging of firearms and correlation to licensed owners. Nothing more, nothing less. The licensing system is responsible for ensuring applicants or existing licensees are of suitable moral and ethical stature to safely own and possess firearms for recreational purposes.

  4. Michel says:

    It seems to me like Dr. Barbara Kane (Like many other Canadians) is confusing the licensing of firearm owners and the registration of firearms.

    As far as know, there are no plans to stop the licensing process… The back ground check, security check, and other haptitude test will still be in place.


  5. dave says:

    I hope one day you are able to grasp the difference between licencing and registering guns. Obviously you are up to now incapable of understanding the difference.

  6. CarsonH says:

    Ms. Mandelman:

    I am astounded that an intelligent, well educated person like yourself seems incapable of understanding the differences between the two separate systems of gun owner licensing and the gun registry. I won’t repeat the education provided to you in the accurate posts above. Is your ideology clouding your reason?

    If I was publically challenged on an opinion – and consistently so – I would at least check my facts. There’s nothing worse than being publically embarrassed because your opinions follow from an incorrect understanding of publically available information.

    No one here is saying that people should not be properly vetted under a gun owner licensing system that also teaches safe gun handling. The gun registry on the other hand, is just a very expensive system for creating a computer record for the existance of firearms owned by licensed individuals. It does not track the location of the firearms from moment to moment, nor does it provide any guarantee that a criminal does not have an unlicensed firearm in their possession.

    Finally, while I laud Dr Kane for her responsible actions towards the public, neither the owner licensing system nor the gun registry are necessary to remove firearms from an unstable patient’s possession. She need only call police with her concerns and they will pay the patient a visit. Searching the home is the only way that they can provide any reasonable assurance that they have found all the firearms located there, registered or not.

  7. Roderick says:

    Hi Elizabeth: I see that others have reiterated the fact that the criminal and mental health background checking function of our gun control system is actually part of the licensing process, not the registry, so I’ll only note that in passing.

    The main issue that I’d like to raise is that the Firearms Act as a whole, including licensing and registration provisions, has not had a noticeable impact on suicide rates as a whole. There is a reason that the Coalition for Gun Control always specify firearms suicide in their talking points; it’s because overall, the Firearms Act has not impacted the suicide rate. In other words, it’s affect suicide methods, not suicide rates, which provides absolutely no justification for maintaining the registry.

    While firearms suicides are a declining portion of the suicide rate, probably because the delays involved in the licensing process and the fact that at least some suicidal applicants may have answered the mental-health portion of the R/PAL application truthfully forced some suicidal individuals to choose means of suicide other than firearms, overall, there hasn’t been any material change in the Canadian suicide rate since the adoption of the Firearms Act.

    Which makes sense, really. People have been killing themselves by any number of means since long before the invention of firearms. Firearms do not cause suicide. And removing firearms from a suicidal person will just force them to use other means to kill themselves, not to mention probably worsen their feelings of depression and/or persecution.

    To my mind, sucide isn’t any more or less of a tragedy depending on the method used. Pills, razor blades, rope, cars, and bridges are all as readily available to the suicidal and just as lethal as firearms. And the statistics bear out the contention that decreasing the availability of firearms does not impact the suicide rate. So while I’m in agreement with you that suicide is tragic and that suicide prevention is a worthy social policy goal, I disagree with you that more gun control would accomplish this, in Canada or anywhere else.

    I’d invite you to research Canadian suicide rates as a whole prior to and following the adoption of the Firearms Act. Once again, you’ll find that the claims of the registry’s proponents are misleading.

    You might think that if nothing else, the fact that the registry lists firearms might facilitate the work of the police in seizing firearms from a suicidal individual. While this does not affect the fact that firearms are not a causative factor in suicide and that depriving a suicidal individual of firearms will force them to resort to other methods, it relies upon the mistaken assumption that the registry is accurate.

    Given that the registry contains at best one-half to one-third of the firearms known to have been legally imported into Canada, let alone the illegally imported ones, the registry is not a reliable guide to the presence and number of firearms in any given household, forcing police to do a thorough search rather than ticking seized weapons off on a registry print-out. Simply put, the possibility of false negatives completely vitiates the value of the registry here (not to mention most other applications). All that it does here is inform the police that there are likely some firearms at a given location, which is something that they already know or suspect is the case if they’re conducting a search to seize firearms on mental health grounds. So if the police know that there are guns at a location, they cannot rely on the registry to tell whether they’ve got them all; they’re forced to conduct a search.

    Given that a hit on the licensing database is just as reliable an indicator as a registry hit that there are firearms at a given location, I really don’t see how one can support the registry on suicide prevention grounds, even if one assumes that firearms cause suicide.

  8. Paul says:

    If the system actually worked and is as effective and justifiable why is it Gun Control advocates has such a serious lack of substance to your argument?

    You still do not get it why are you still confusing licensing and registration.

    “The letter does an excellent job of describing why the registry is useful and should be maintained.“

    No, This letter does an excellent job of distorting the facts, further confusing the roles of licensing and registration and cherry picking selective statistics which do not and have never indicated causation. There is ample peer reviewed and published statistical analysis on this topic which does not support Dr. Barbara Kane and other people set on removing the rights of firearms owners which is why Gun Control advocates are forced to used opinion pieces from news papers. You used the Ottawa Citizen and we quote from the Harvard Journal you see the problem the two sources are not equal. If this has been such a great social experiment why hasn’t the good doctor or one of her colleagues published a peer reviewed papers that supports there view. Elizabeth you have also fallen into the trap by using an opinion piece to support your cause, but this is what I have come to expect.

    The trend was already on downwards before Bill-C68 at statistically the same rates both before and after the changes to the Firearms Act. The rate of actual suicide remained statistically virtually unchanged just less people used guns so we paid 2 billion so that statistically the same number of people have died just the method changed. Let’s not even get into discussing the actual cause of the change which is most likely the licensing system with mandatory waiting periods and courses which extends the time it takes to possess a firearm.

    The rate of actual suicide has remained statistically unchanged both before and after the changes the only real change is less people use guns so the net effect of 2 billion spent on the registry to lower the suicide rate was ZERO, but yet people for Gun Control still spout the little tidbit every chance they get.

    The good doctor would have us believe that the funding of programs for people that are at risk and programs and changing views towards domestic violence had no effect on the downwards trend it is all about the registry or at least that is what people who would restrict my freedoms and liberty would claim. Also the fact that trends were downwards long before and where decreasing at around the same statistical rates is always ignored by people like yourself and the fine Doctor. My question to the Doctor would be simple is she had to choose between cancelling the funding used to help people at risk or the registry what would she choose. I know the answer and you and all other readers to this blog know also.

    If someone fails to qualify for a firearms license or loses there license for whatever reason the possession of firearms is a criminal offence. Hence the person will become a criminal if they purchase a firearm or continue to have position of one they may have legally bought at sometime in the past. As we all know it is very easy for criminals to purchase and find firearms on the black market. The registry is a shame in the name of public safety with great optics nothing more nothing less.

    “8,281 — 74 per cent of which were nonrestricted shotguns and rifles. The same article reports that the reason for these confiscations is usually that the individual has threatened or used violence.” What is the statistical definition of “usually” I’m curious why a percentage was used why not break it down. How many came from estates where the owner that had passed on and the gun simply turned in. How many where actually turned in by the owner. How many where for hunting related violations for example hunting out of season. The reality is a significant portion of those firearms will go back to there owners. Of the 74% that where registered how many where actually taken from there actual owners While 8,281 items where seized how many actual owners where involved. You see the raw number and sensational use of them is irresponsible and is only used to justify the unjustifiable and create fear.

    We do not have limitless recourses and the wastage of this system takes away from valuable other programs. When the wait times for MRI’s for example are reasonable maybe then the government can waste my tax dollars.

  9. Mr Kilroy says:

    “By eliminating the long-gun registry, the registry system would be incomplete, and thus, ineffective. In addition, the added layer of protection provided to police officers would disappear, as would the protection provided to women and children.”

    GEEEWHIZ, those poor police officers were just sitting ducks before the registry. The streets ran red with the blood of women and children before C-68.

    And Yes there is no need to send in the SWAT team, CPIC says there are no guns at that crack house. Since gang bangers and drug dealers all register their guns. Not that it matters since the information contained in the registry is sooo accurate that it is inadmissible in Court anyways.

    Of course firearms have consciousness and a will of their own, Exerting such powerful mind control upon their possessors. That would explain how the psychiatrist dropped the ball on Kimveer Gil. It wasn’t her failure to report a risk it was the mind control powers of his gun at play.

    I hear tell,,, That the Mayor of Toronto is going to close baseball diamonds and ban baseball and cricket bats since the savage beating death last week in his city. Not really,,,he only blames “So Called” law abiding firearms owners for the gang and drug problem in his city..So he closed all shooting clubs on city land and keeps asking for a handgun ban..that will solve the problem…..

    the fact is the registry has gobbled up scads of money and given nothing in return. The fear among the gun grabbing community is that if the registry goes, it will be the thin end of the wedge. And when hell doesn’t break loose licencing will be next. Then Canada will be just like the U.S. oh heaven fore fend..

    The funny part of it all is millions of people came to this country over the years escaping tyrants of every stripe, their children are working hard to create the type country their parents escaped from. A Police State.

    To quote or paraphrase a great socialist thinker George Orwell “See the rifle on the back of the door of the workman’s cottage. It is our job to keep it there. For that is the symbol of democracy and freedom.”

    Those that would trade liberty for the illusion of security deserve neither liberty nor security.

  10. Elizabeth Mandelman says:

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