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Profile: Dr. Barbara Kane

Elizabeth Mandelman | PostedJuly 18th, 2009 | North America

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Dr. Barbara Kane has been a psychiatrist in Prince George, British Columbia for nineteen years.  She is one of only eight mental health professionals in town, which is home to 75,000 residents.  In an earlier entry, I featured a letter by Dr. Kane that was published in the Guelph Mercury newspaper.  This week, she was kind enough to sit down with me to share her views on Canada’s Firearms Act and the registry requirements contained within it. 

Dr. Kane became interested in firearms legislation prior to the passage and implementation of Canada’s Firearms Act, when she experienced firsthand just how difficult it was to remove firearms from the hands of individuals either dangerous to themselves or to others. 

During our interview, Dr. Kane stated that often times in the field of mental health, situations escalate swiftly, and quick actions are necessary in order to control the circumstances.  Thus, in a 1993 article published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Kane made the argument that physicians should have more of a voice in whether or not their patients are stable enough to own firearms. 

Dr. Kane made this argument because she found that prior to the registry, when she contacted law enforcement officials with concerns about the safety of one of her patients (or that of their friends and family as a result of the patient), they were unsure of what actions to take and had no way of telling whether the person of concern owned any firearms.

Since the implementation of the registry, however, when a concerned physician contacts law enforcement, they can easily determine whether an unstable individual has a firearm registered to them, and can act quickly to take it away, if necessary.  In Dr. Kane’s opinion, the registry has been very useful in aiding mental health professionals and the police in removing firearms from the hands of dangerous individuals.    

Of course critics of the registry will point out that it only contains records of legally registered firearms and not those that may have been obtained illegally.  This is true; however, working to save as many lives as possible is better than working to save none at all. 

In addition, the registry is important in helping law enforcement trace the origins of firearms that may have been acquired illegally, according to Dr. Kane.  During our interview, she spoke of a patient who shot himself using an illegally acquired firearm.  After shooting himself, the patient decided he did not want to die, but was unable to be saved.  This incident occurred before the registry was in place.  As a result, the gun could not be traced.  With the registry, law enforcement would have been more easily able to trace the origins of the firearm.  Without it, however, and lacking information from the victim, they were unable to determine from whom he had acquired it.  With the registry, more accountability exists.

Dr. Kane does think that more frequent screenings should be required of firearms users.  This is because mental illness can surface at many different stages of life, and Dr. Kane believes that someone perfectly stable at the time they receive their firearms license may not be mentally stable three, four, or five years later.  With more frequent screenings, the registry would not have to be utilized as often in order to remove firearms from the possession of dangerous individuals, as the licensing process would work to do it instead. 

 My interview with Dr. Kane provided me with a new perspective on the importance of the registry contained in Canada’s Firearms Act.  Not only has it worked to harmonize gun control and domestic violence laws in the country, but it has also helped mental health professionals, working in conjunction with law enforcement, to save lives and prevent tragedy.    

Unfortunately, stories of the registry successfully saving lives never make headline news, and therefore the gun lobby continues to claim that it is a waste.  I wonder if they would continue to call it useless if it were to save the life of one of their children, spouses, or friends.  I think I can pretty well imagine the answer to my own question, as I have been told many times that saving one life is just not worth the money that the Canadian government has invested. 


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18 Responses to “Profile: Dr. Barbara Kane”

  1. EESA Storm says:

    Once again we see yet another Anti gun lobbyist who is unable to separate Licensing from Registration.
    When are you going to take up one of the many offers for debate so you can post BOTH sides of the situation.

    Or are you too afraid of the truth of this subject?

  2. GoodLord says:

    Stop this already. Blaming objects for the actions of people. Pretending that a computer
    database and piece of paper will influence the actions of people. That’s like saying registering my car makes me a good driver.
    Grow up already.
    You and you alone are responsible for what you do in life.
    Having or not having some inanimate object, whatever it may be, is not gonna make a difference.

  3. Roderick says:

    Hi Elizabeth: I think that you’ve missed the point on how the fact that the registry contains fewer than half the known, legally imported firearms in the country (and a much lesser percentage of the overall total of unknown, illegally imported firearms).

    Simply put, the police cannot rely on the registry. They cannot say with certainty if a registry printout lists all the firearms at a given residence. So they have to execute a search when seizing firearms, instead of just ticking them off a list and leaving once all the registered guns are in their possession.

    Given that in the circumstances Dr. Kane describes the police will be carrying out a search anyhow regardless of whether the psychologically troubled individual has any firearms registered to his or her name, and doubly so if they’re advised that a psychologically troubled person without an R/PAL has guns, the registry is of no real assistance to the police when seizing firearms from a troubled person. The police have to operate in the real world, where the registry’s incompleteness and errors can have life-or-death consequences.

    I’d like to know why Dr. Kane seems so convinced that seizing firearms from suicidal individuals is such a useful suicide prevention method. As you’re no doubt aware if you’ve studied Canadian suicide statistics, both pre and post registry, you’ll no doubt be aware that while firearms suicides have declined since the Firearms Act came into effect, the overall suicide rate has not. Which indicates that the Firearms Act has been ineffective at preventing suicide, and that removing firearms from a residence leaves a great many other suicide methods available.

    Dr. Kane seems like a pleasant, intelligent individual, but in light of the statistics, the best claim that she can make is that the registry may have prevented some people from killing themselves with guns. She cannot claim that the registry has had any impact on Canada’s suicide rate.

    I wonder why she feels that suicides by firearms are worthy of more preventative measures than suicides involving cars, ropes, bridges, prescription drugs, gas ovens, and so forth. Presumably, she isn’t of the view that simply removing firearms is going to prevent a suicide.

    Overall, despite her well-meaning support for the registry, the suicide data disprove her use of suicide prvention as a justification for the registry.

    Lastly, I’d also be interested in learning how Dr. Kane thinks that the registry can be of use in tracking illegally obtained firearms.

    Firstly, the registry can be defeated in minutes with simple hand tools; once the serial number has been filed or dremeled off a firearm, it’s untraceable via the registry.

    Secondly, if a firearm has never been registered, as a result of it having been smuggled across the border, there will be no record of it in the registry, which again will be of no use to police.

    Since defaced and/or unregistered firearms make up the vast majority of recovered crime guns in Canada, the registry is rarely of use in tracking them. The most credible figures to date that I have seen, collected in Vancouver in 2004 by the National Weapons Enforcement Team, indicated that only 3% of firearms recovered by police were traceable by the registry, either due to defacement or their never having been registered.

    Even if a recovered firearm is registered, the registry is frequently of very little use to police in tracking a crime gun. The case of the Mayerthorpe Mountie murdered James Roszko is instructive. After a registered firearm was found on his corpse, the Mounties tracked it back to its last registered owner, the grandfather of one of Roszko’s accomplices. The grandfather simply told police that the rifle had been stolen, thereby rendering the registry of no further use to police.

    The accomplices were eventually apprehended via a multimillion-dollar undercover sting operation in which the registry played no part.

    So basically, the registry can be defeated by any criminal with enough initiative to buy a file at Canadian Tire, is useless in tracing over 90% (I’m being conservative with my estimate here) of crime guns, and can be rendered useless on the remainder by criminals who lie to investigators.

    Somehow, I really don’t think that the registry’s ongoing operations budget (let alone its total cost to date) can be justified by its meager utility in this area.

  4. Elizabeth Mandelman says:

    Dr. Kane stated during our interview that if you remove the means by which someone is going to commit suicide, they more often than not do not commit suicide. This has been statistically proven. Therefore, if someone threatens suicide using a gun and the gun is no longer available, it’s likely they won’t kill themselves. Dr. Kane stated that often people think that working to prevent an individual from killing themselves is hopeless, but it’s not. Therefore, it helps prevent suicide in that sense.

  5. Paul says:

    Nice emotional appeal I like the last paragraph the best. Even if it did save a loved one of mine I would still consider the program a complete and total economic failure. Willing to bet a single new MRI machine at any hospitable would have saved more lives then the registry would over the same time period. I wonder what you would you think the registry was such a great idea if you or a family member was told if we had caught this a month ago you would have had a chance. I have lost 2 family members to date just like my example and a few others whose odds would have gone way up had the problem been found earlier.

    When our medical system is funded correctly and every Canadian has access to a family doctor and advance medical diagnostic equipment and no one is turned away from emergency shelters because of funding and at risk youth have better places then a crack house to hang out at and no child in Canada goes to school hungry … we can talk about the registry of an inanimate object.

    Lets fix real problems with real solutions and real tangible results that benefit the most tax payers.

    The suicide argument has no legs the numbers did not change just the method and again that has little if anything to do with the registry, but the waiting periods built into the licensing. Even then the body count reminded statistically the same.



  6. Bruce says:

    Dr. Kane is being a trifle disingenuous with her claims about the success of the registry. Perhaps it was a little more difficult to convince police that there really was an urgent need to divest some poor, deranged fool of his firearms, but the means to do so already existed in the Pre-Firearms Act Criminal Code of Canada:

    103(2) Seizure without warrant

    (2) Where, with respect to any person, a peace officer is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is not desirable in the interests of the safety of that person, or of any other person, that that person possess, or have custody or control of, any firearm or other offensive weapon or any ammunition or explosive substance, the peace officer may, where the conditions for obtaining a warrant under subsection (1) exist but by reason of a possible danger to the safety of that person or any other person, it would not be practicable to obtain a warrant, search for and seize any firearm or other offensive weapon or any ammunition, explosive substance, authorization referred to in subsection 90(3.2), firearms acquisition certificate, registration certificate issued under section 109 or permit issued under section 110, in the possession, custody or control of that person.

    Even with the registry, if someone has un-registerd guns, the only way to find them – and the only way that should be used – is to search the person’s abode thoroughly. Any cop who thinks that just checking guns off a list is doing his job effectively needs to find another line of work.

    And if the Firearms Act is so good at preventing suicides, why is the overall numbers of suicides remaining the same? Doesn’t that mean that people are simply substituting other means to kill themselves, despite what Dr. Kane claims?

  7. George says:

    Ahh yes, the “If only there were no guns, then suicides would decline” argument resurfaces in this new incarnation. Yes, people will use firearms to kill themselves. Yes, some people may not succeed if they did not have a firearm. However, people do end their own lives by other means. I suggest you review suicide tables on the Statistics Canada website. Despite what Dr. Kane may believe about the relationship between firearms and suicide, these tables tell a different story. While they do show a long term decline in the number of firearms suicides, they also show that the total number of suicides and the overall rate of suicide has been unaffected by the introduction of the Firearms Act and it’s centrepiece; the long gun registry. If the Firearms Act and by default, the registry was anywhere near as valuable a suicide prevention tool as both you and Dr. Kane claim it to be, then there should be a quantifiable drop in the suicide rate that can be directly correlated with the proclamation of the Firearms Act in 1995. Unfortunately for registry supporters, no such statistical correlation exists, for as I said earlier, the suicide rate has remained stable. Therefore, those who may have been denied the option of ending their lives with a firearm are apparently managing to do so without any hindrance at all, by other means.

  8. Roderick says:

    Hi Elizabeth: the problem with Dr. Kane’s statement is that firearms are not the only means to commit suicide available to most people. Looking around my house, I have a lot of rope, plenty of acetominaphen, plenty of razor blades and other edged tools, some gasoline for my mower, two cars, and several large bodies of water and some nice high bridges within easy driving distance. I’m sure that if I were to google suicide methods I could come up with a few more ideas, but I’m sure you get my point.

    Taking away my guns would not prevent me from killing myself were I truly suicidal. This is why the Canadian suicide rate has remained steady since the adoption of the Firearms Act. If the Firearms Act worked to prevent suicide, Canadian suicide rates would have dropped since its adoption; although it is true that firearms suicides have dropped, other methods have taken up the slack. And since they haven’t, one can only conclude that for all the anecdotes that Dr. Kane might be willing to share, her views are not supported by the facts, and that the suicide prevention arguments in favour of the Firearms Act are specious.

  9. [...] out of bogus statistics and fallacious arguments to peddle about guns and domestic violence, Elizabeth Mandelman has moved on to another time-honoured anti-gun talking point: suicides. (School shootings is coming [...]

  10. Simon says:


    Listen, we’re a reasonable bunch. If restrictive gun control actually had a positive influence on public safety, we would be all for it. But millions of people giving up their hobbies, sports, livelihood (both jobs AND sustenance hunting) and a very important part of our heritage isn’t something to be taken lightly.

    The thing is, the anti-gun crowd is broadly composed of habitual liars that make a profit from restrictive gun legislation (Like the GfGC), hoplophobes (Who should go get psychiatric help) and “useful idiots” who are woefully ignorant/misinformed on the topic (youtube: “What is a barrel shroud?”).

    I make sure to thoroughly verify all “facts” I come across, regardless from which camp it comes from before I use them in a debate. The massive number of BLATANT LIES from the anti-gun camp is absolutely staggering. If gun control truly had a positive impact on personal and public safety, then you wouldn’t constantly need to LIE to me to convince me.

  11. GoodLord says:

    I find it interesting that you decide what people can and can’t read.

    I guess the truth hurts. It is quite clear you are not interested in debate and/ or facts, nor are you interested in helping women or other victims of violence. Otherwise you would stop wasting your time and energy on a computer program that prints out pieces of paper. Oh yeah, I forgot, having my car registered and a piece of paper in my glove box makes me the best and most polite driver on god’s green earth. How dumb of me to forget that.
    Everything that blows a big hole into your repetitive emotional stories just gets deleted. Convenient, isn’t it. Like it never existed.

    You are a very selfish and immature person. It is people like you who deny access to the tools victims of physical and psychological violence need and want for no good logical reason. One can not even carry a tazer or pepper spray in one’s purse thanks to people like you and attitudes like yours.

    Bravo, Elizabeth. I hope you sleep well at night knowing that yet again you didn’t face the real world and it’s issues.

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  13. Mikhail says:

    I’ve recently become a gun enthusiast. It was a long time curiosity of mine, and I finally had the time to get going with it. I am a middle aged man, a university professor, father of two daughter, immigrant to Canada, and married to a former refugee entrant to Canada.

    I took the safety course, I’m taking trapshooting lessons, will do a tournament in a month (where I will be humbled no doubt). I’m trying to find a gun club to join where I can do this activity, as well as other activities such as target shooting and pistol shooting.

    I find the process a bit onerous, but I understand the need to know who is buying guns, and to check that they are not someone at risk for doing something bad. But beyond that point, I am less understanding. Why was it necessary to drive all the gun clubs out of my city? I have to drive 1 – 2 hours to go anywhere with decent facilities? Pistol shooting, rifle shooting, and shotgun shooting are accepted sports anywhere int the world, and have been part of the Olympics since 1896. 1896!!

    Why have a bunch of people decided, with no convincing evidence, that guns are to be regulated out of existence, demonized until even their name cannot be mentioned, a la 1984. In my daughters’ schools the teachers have been told not to use the word “bullets”, and substitute it with “nuggets”. How stupid is that?

    Can’t responsible citizens make their own choices, rather than be controlled by the fears of others? The gun restriction movement is creating the framework for disarming a nation. Gun owners know this, and hence mistrust any attempt to enumerate, identify, or limit their choices. I understand their fears, MUCH MORE than I understand the need for people like yourself and others to take away freedoms from citizens who have committed no crime, paid taxes faithfully, and jumped through all the the tedious hoops laid in their path.

    Have you no shame? No sense of history? For history tells us that such attempts to control the citizenry NEVER lead to the desired outcome, and either lead to reaction, or lead to ever more oppression. Back off.

  14. Elizabeth Mandelman says:

    My knowledge of history has taught me that protecting women and children is an issue of human rights, and needs to be taken seriously. History has illustrated that there is indeed a need to craft legislation that will help to curb violence and against women. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

  15. Mikhail says:

    Elizabeth, I have no disagreement with the need to protect the weak.

    I live as the protector of my wife, and my two daughters (though she will say that most of the time it is her protecting me). Anyone who tries to do anything bad to them will have to kill me first. What makes you think that I would support anything that would harm them? I think you are setting up a straw horse.

    Women and children, being the weaker, have historically been harmed by men. No dispute. It happens in every culture, every continent, and every human period. No exceptions. It doesn’t happen in my house, though, and that’s the only part that I can address. I can’t, and won’t, apologize for what someone else has done.

    It’s about the strong vs the weak. Take away all the guns in the world. Does the equation change? No. Further, not that I want to argue the “self defense” part of gun ownership, since too often that become the main issue, and I don’t feel it should be (freedom and rights are the main issue), but isn’t a gun the best equalizer between the small and defenseless and the strong and powerful? Shouldn’t a woman be able to get a gun for self defense if she feels it necessary? How many women have been killed by spouses and ex boyfriends who had been harrasing them for months or years? HOw many of those murders had been under “court orders” to stay away? What good did they do?

  16. Mikhail says:

    Elizabeth, thank you for correcting that mistake in my posting as per the erratum I put up right after. It makes the discussion cleaner. Very classy. I appreciate it. You have my respect.

  17. Jim says:

    Mz Elizabeth,
    I have been following your debate with increasing dread. I fully understand your quest to Protect the Woman and Children of OUR country from the evils of man, but I fail to understand your methods. Could you please explain to us, why you are here, In Canada, attempting to change OUR gun laws?? I would think, that if you were so dedicated, you might try this crap back home? Seeing as you are an American and all. Oh wait, don’t the American’s have an amendment to their constitution that Allows them the FREEDOM to own guns? I’ll make it plain as day for you, GO HOME. We have our own, Home Grown Liberal Wackoo’s to deal with

  18. Elizabeth Mandelman says:

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