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Posts tagged domestic violence

Final Reflections

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted August 16th, 2009 | North America

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Tuesday morning I made the long drive back to Minneapolis from Waterloo. Not even ten minutes into my drive, the morning news update was aired.

The first story reported that a woman from the Kitchener area named Nadia Gehl had been shot in early February while at a bus stop close to her home. Waterloo police finally apprehended three suspects last week-her husband and two of his friends. The second story aired described a deadly shooting in Toronto.

Over the summer, the pro-gun community in Canada incessantly argued that gun violence in their country is so low that legislation to decrease and prevent it is not warranted. This assertion, clearly, is easily challenged simply by listening to or watching the news.

The correlation between gun control and domestic violence cannot be ignored, nor can the correlation between gun control and crime more generally.

Domestic violence is a gendered issue, and unfortunately is always likely to be. As a result, the use of firearms in domestic violence is also a gendered issue; this is why IANSA launched the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign this summer.

Canada is one of four countries with harmonized gun control and domestic violence laws. As such, Canada’s Firearms Act has been internationally recognized as good practice and is being used as a model for other countries looking to implement similar laws.

It is not perfect. Nobody is pretending it is. There were cost overruns in its implementation, and some existing loopholes need to be closed. That being said, its imperfections are very small, and eliminating any portion of the Firearms Act would result in a decline of public safety and increased accessibility of firearms to perpetrators of domestic violence and other dangerous individuals.

DV Logo
DV Logo

While reflecting on the Firearms Act and my time in Canada, I feel the need to address the treatment I received from the pro-gun community this summer, specifically from members of CanadianGunNutz.com, described as Canada’s largest firearm trade and discussion forum.

According to the pro-gun community, I was in Canada trying to take away their rights. The gunnutz community repeatedly accused me of attacking their personal freedoms, namely their freedom to carry firearms with them at all times, no matter where they are or what they are doing. If they want to carry their gun with them to run errands or even just to buy a pack of a smokes, this should be their prerogative, is what they argued.

They told me I should be ashamed of myself based on my ‘sickening’ attempt of emotional appeal when linking gun control and domestic violence. Newsflash, Gunnutz: Domestic violence is emotional. It is horrifying and it is unfair. Pretending the issue does not exist does nothing to help make it go away.

Not only did the pro-gun community constantly try attacking the legitimacy of my work and research, but they also attacked me personally; I have never experienced such degrading language or inappropriate behavior by people who claim to be adults.


What was most laughable about the treatment I received was the fact that the entire time the pro-gun community was trying to discredit my work, they were also trying to get me removed from the country. Paranoia and fear runs rampant among the gunnutz, and as such they try to ‘stomp out’ (their words, not mine) any opinion that differs from their own.

Among other tactics, the pro-gun community tried to get me removed from Canada by searching for me as a registered lobbyist, looking into ways of getting my Visa revoked (I did not need one, which none of them were able to figure out), starting a letter writing campaign to the dean of my school based on my ‘lack of academic integrity’, and beginning the process of filing paperwork with the Ontario Human Rights Commission claiming that I was an American terrorist in their country attacking their rights.

They even posted the link to my Facebook page on their forum and suggested that everyone try to befriend me. Making futile attempts to get me kicked out of Canada is one thing, but seeking me out on Facebook is disturbing and scary (especially when the screen name of the person posting the link is Nightmare). I was forced to take down the picture I had of me a friend laughing, because some individuals began making lewd and suggestive comments about it.

I was warned before arriving that the treatment I would receive would be aggressive and mean, but I honestly did not expect it to be as bad as it was. Gunnutz.com and the pro-gun community are doing themselves no favors by attacking rather than debating those whose opinions vary from their own.

While their constant attacks were frustrating this summer, their tactics of aggression and bullying did not work on me, and have not worked on Parliament. The Firearms Act was passed into law for good reason, and Parliament continues to recognize its benefits by upholding the legislation in its entirety.

Guns Were a Terrifying Presence in Our Home

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted August 7th, 2009 | North America

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Working as an Advocacy Project Peace Fellow with IANSA on the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign this summer has opened my eyes to the horrible realities of domestic violence.  However, no matter how many months I spend researching the topic, I know I will never truly understand what it is like to be a victim, or survivor, of domestic abuse.

Understandably, it has been difficult for me to find abuse victims willing to share their stories; some are too ashamed while others do not want to relive the terrible memories they have worked so hard to forget.

One individual wanting to tell her story, though, is Donna Carrick.  Donna posted a comment on one of my entries about her abusive father with the hopes that it would illustrate the increased fear and danger brought on by the presence of firearms. 

I got in touch with Donna and asked if she would be willing to share more of her story with me.  Kindly, in order to help promote awareness of this important issue, she agreed.

The following narrative was written by Donna.  In her own words, she describes the abuse she witnessed and experienced firsthand as a child and into her first marriage.

My name is Donna Carrick.  I’m forty-nine, married, and we have three children.  Our home is peaceful. My husband and I are both writers with day-jobs.  Most would describe me as out-going and confident. 

On the subject of Domestic Violence, in particular with regards to how a violent situation can be made worse by the presence of firearms, I have first-hand knowledge. My father was a Military man.  He was also a collector of hunting rifles and subscriber to many gun-related magazines.  Canadian-born, he was an avid outdoorsman.

In later years we were able to honour him as a parent.  He had many good qualities – loyalty, intelligence, and a sharp sense of humour.  He was aware of his personal failings, which made him forgivable to his family.

However, when I was young he was abusive and violent.  He often threatened to shoot my mother and even myself and my sisters.  I don’t know how my ninety-five pound mother survived those years of physical abuse.  My older sister did not survive – I lost her to suicide when she was only nineteen. 

My father was physically, verbally, psychologically and sexually abusive to my mother, my older sister, and myself.  My younger sister denies having experienced any abuse, but adds she has no memories prior to the age of twelve, which is hard for me to imagine.  I have very distinct and sharp memories. 

My father would strangle my mother.  We girls would lie in our beds and hear her cries for help, too afraid to move.  She was an unfailing wife and mother, didn’t drink, didn’t swear, and was raised to be a lady.  He would beat her, would put inanimate objects inside her, would call her names, and worst of all, would threaten to take down one of his guns and kill us all.  I consider it to be a “long-shot” we were not all shot.


I have a sense of humour, enjoy my life, writing, family and my work and friends.  All of that is forgotten, though, as I remember those years.  I am again a child, afraid and frustrated, unable to take any action, dreaming only of escape.

No one can understand this despair unless they have lived through it.  When I tell these stories, the reactions I encounter are 1 of 2 kinds:

              1-How can you say these things about your family? (As if I am disloyal.  But when my father was dying of cancer, it was I who visited him every day.  I fed him, cleaned him, took him to his medical appointments, and never uttered an unkind or unloving word to him.  “Keeping the silence” only perpetuates the abuse by enabling the abusers.) 

              2-Why didn’t your mother leave him?  She left him when I was six, only to discover she had no family support. Her relatives felt she had “made her own bed”. My father’s employer, the Military, pressured her to return to him.  She left him once again when I was fifteen, after being beaten so badly that several ribs were broken and her face was not recognisable. She was unable to get out of bed for three weeks.  That time he actually did quit drinking and sought help for his problems.  After three months we went back, and he never hit my mother again.  Just when I was sure things were better, he was again sexually abusive.  I left home shortly after that.

Guns were a terrifying presence in our house.  We all understood we would most likely die by shooting. I’ve heard others say that this scenario is like “living in the eye of a hurricane”, in that you never know when the next bout of violence will erupt.  On the contrary, we could usually predict the onset of violence.  There would be a false bravado, a tone of camaraderie, a heightened sense of humour in my father’s speech that was certain to end badly.

During one of his moments of sobriety and remorse, my father allowed my mother to lock away vital parts of each firearm.  I know little about hunting rifles, but I believe it was the “clips” that he removed.  It was probably this insistence on my mother’s part that saved our lives.

When I finally escaped from my childhood I became another statistic.  I married my first husband, a drug and alcohol abuser with an even worse temperament than my father had.  During that brief marriage he strangled me twice, beat me several times, threatened and belittled me constantly, refused to work and demanded my pay checks, was constantly paranoid and jealous and accused me of having affairs.

One night, when we were entertaining people for dinner at our apartment, he took a large kitchen knife and threatened to kill one of our guests, then chased me down the street till I took refuge in a local restaurant.  The owner found a blanket to wrap around me and called the police.  I was seventeen at the time.

One day I went to put the clean towels away in the linen closet and found an illegal handgun hidden there. I knew it was time to get out.  When I left, he would not let go.  I lost several good jobs because of his stalking.  He called incessantly and would show up.  One of my bosses had to call security.  It was the embarrassment that made me most depressed.  On at least two occasions, he got on the bus I was on, and the bus driver had to force him off.

My oldest sister committed suicide when she was only nineteen.  When you spend your childhood having your life threatened by a parent with a gun, you doubt your right to live. Her death was a defining moment for me.  

Obviously there will always be men like my father who are violent, with or without access to firearms.  However, when we take an already difficult domestic situation and add the element of firearms, the situation becomes worse.  A bullet is more “certain to kill” than most other weapons. 

I am not a victim of domestic abuse, but a Survivor.  I understand this story could easily have ended quite differently for me. 

I still experience the most horrible nightmares.  My husband and children tease me about them – they don’t understand why I sometimes wake up screaming for help.

Guns Are More Deadly

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted August 6th, 2009 | North America

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 ”Post mortem examinations by the Edmonton Medical Examiner have determined that all four deceased died as a result of gunshot injuries. It has been determined that three of the deceased sustained multiple firearm related injuries while the fourth succumbed from what appears to be a single, fatal, self-inflicted injury. Investigators remain confident that the person responsible for all four deaths is among the four deceased. In consultation with the Medical Examiner this is now being classified as a triple murder-suicide.”  (RCMP “K” Division Media and Communications Services news release, July 29th, 2009)

On July 26th, Slave Lake police received a call suggesting that a homicide had taken place on a property located in rural Alberta.  Upon responding to the call, the RCMP Emergency Response Team entered the property and found four deceased persons.

The RCMP, through their investigation and with help from the Serious Crimes Unit, concluded that Ian Jeffrey Paget, 58, shot dead his estranged wife, his daughter, and his nine year old granddaughter.  After shooting his family members to death, he turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.    

This tragic story highlights one of the arguments I have made repeatedly during my time as a Peace Fellow with the Advocacy Project: guns are more lethal than any other type of weapon.

Firearms are designed to kill, and are able to eliminate many people instantly.  According to Statistic Canada’s most recent data, between 1961 and 2003, firearms were the weapon of choice in the majority of homicide-suicides in Canada.

A firearm in the home increases the risk of death at the hands of a violent perpetrator; Ian Jeffrey Paget was able to eliminate his entire family, including himself, in a matter of seconds. 

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DV Logo

Statistics Canada found that three-quarters of all homicide-suicides in Canada between 1961 and 2003 involved family members, and over half of these cases were committed by male spouses or ex-spouses; ninety-seven percent of the victims were female.

According to a report released by the Alberta “K” RCMP Division in January (the same division to investigate the Paget homicide-suicide), fifty-three homicides were investigated by their Serious Crimes Unit in 2008.  Of these fifty-three homicides, fourteen (or twenty-six percent) were the result of domestic violence and six involved intimate partner relationships.  Additionally, fifteen of the fifty-three homicides were committed with a firearm, accounting for over a quarter of the total.

In 2006 (a report was not submitted for 2007), twelve of thirty-six homicides (thirty-three percent) resulted from domestic violence, and firearms contributed to twelve (thirty-three percent) of the total number of homicides.  In 2005, thirty-one of the forty-nine homicides (sixty-three percent) investigated were attributed to domestic violence, and eleven of the forty-nine homicides were a result of firearms (twenty-two percent).

These statistics illustrate the need for gun control not only to reduce and prevent domestic violence, but violence in general.  Many weapons are used to domestically abuse and assault people, but none are more lethal than firearms.

An Interview with Cindy Cowan, Interim Place

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted July 31st, 2009 | North America

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A few days ago, I spent time talking with Cindy Cowan, the Executive Director of a shelter for abused women called the Interim Place.

The Interim Place has been in operation for twenty-seven years, providing shelter, support, counseling and advocacy for abused women and their children; they are committed to a philosophy of feminism, anti-racism and anti-oppression. 

Cindy has been working with victims of domestic violence for over twenty years, and has been with the Interim Place for three.  When I asked her if she thought the money put towards implementation of Canada’s Firearms Act would have been better spent on social services for abused women, as many opposed to the Act have argued, her answer was no. 

Spending money on ‘patching women up’ is not the solution to ending domestic violence, according to Cowan.  While providing funding for shelters and other resources to help women who have been domestically abused is a necessity, developing and passing legislative policies (such as the Firearms Act) to prevent abuse from ever taking place works to eliminate that necessity. 

Violence against women is a very serious gender-based human rights violation, and obstructs equality between men and women.  Thus, investing money into the implementation of policies like the Firearms Act is vitally important in aiding victims of abuse, and combating a serious women’s rights issue.  Cindy spoke about this during our interview, and the following video includes a small portion of what she said.   

In closing, I need to address the claim made by pro gun advocates that I, and advocates like me, have been trying to win battles through emotional appeal.  I disagree with this statement as making the assertion, for example, that women are statistically more likely to be the victims of domestic violence is not emotionally, but rather factually, fueled.  I must say, however, that after spending nearly two hours with Cindy, it is hard not to bring emotion into the debate of why gun control is needed to help thwart abuse.   

Cindy was kind enough to show me around the shelter during my visit, pointing things out like the intake office for women seeking refuge at the Interim Place, and the playroom for kids.  I also got to see the room where donations are kept; there were a lot of used clothing and everyday household items, toiletries, and toys. 

When I saw the mismatched sheets, dishes and twenty year old coats that are provided to women when they leave the Interim Place, it made me understand more clearly why many women are scared to leave abusive relationships. 

Women who find the courage to leave volatile situations are forced to abandon their lives and their belongings, and are confined for months to dorm room-like living conditions in order to keep themselves and their children safe. 

When they do take the step to begin a new life, they must often do so with someone else’s used sheets and outgrown clothes.   How is this fair?  How is it, I wonder, that there are individuals that consider their privilege of owning a firearm more worthy than the right to safety and protection, afforded to all Canadian citizens by their government?

An Interview with Wendy Cukier, Coalition for Gun Control

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted July 28th, 2009 | North America

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In Canada, 85% of female homicide victims are murdered by their partners and in Ontario, possession or access to firearms is the fifth leading risk factor for femicide.  These reasons are just two among many that led Wendy Cukier to work for stronger gun control in Canada. 

For those of you who do not know who Wendy Cukier is, you must not be from Canada.  Ms. Cukier, in addition to being a Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, is a co-founder and the current President of the Coalition for Gun Control (CGC).  

The Coalition for Gun Control is an alliance of more than 300 major policing, public safety and violence prevention organizations including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, Canadian Public Health Association, and YWCA of Canada.  It is also a founding member of IANSA.

The Coalition was founded in the wake of the Montreal Massacre.  In 1989, a twenty-five year old named Marc Lépine entered a classroom at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, armed with a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle. 

 Lépine moved all of the women to one side of the classroom and shot them, declaring that he hated women and that he was ‘fighting feminism’.  He then roamed the corridors, entered another classroom and the cafeteria, specifically targeted women, and shot them.  In total, fourteen women were killed and ten were injured. 

The mission of the Coalition is to reduce gun violence, injury, and crime.  As the organization’s President, Cukier has for years been one of Canada’s leading voices on the necessity of gun control.  Working together with the police, health care agencies, women’s groups, and victims, CGC and Cukier have helped to lead the efforts to defend Canada’s Firearms Act. 

coalition for gun control
coalition for gun control

When Ms. Cukier took time to sit down with me last week for an interview, one question I posed relates to the interrelatedness of licensing and the registry.  I explained that many opponents of the registry claim it to be unnecessary, and asked how she would explain that the two are indeed interconnected.

In response, Ms. Cukier asserted that as Canada’s Supreme Court concluded in their 2000 opinion regarding the Act’s constitutionality, it would be impossible to ensure that licensed individuals do not give their guns to others not holding a license without the registry.  The registration of firearms helps to enforce the licensing provisions of the Act.  

To explain this, Ms. Cukier provided the example that if an individual has a license and purchases firearms without a registration requirement, there is no way to hold them accountable for those firearms or to prevent them from lending or giving them to an unlicensed person. In other words, registration results in accountability.

In addition, if a prohibition order is placed on someone and their firearms license is taken away, without the registry, the police have no way to know what firearms they should be seizing.

Lastly, Ms. Cukier explained that if guns are stolen after being improperly stored, owners are unlikely to report the theft as required by law. If guns are registered, in effect attaching the name of the gun owners to the firearm, owners are more likely to behave responsibly. Registration is an essential component in preventing the diversion of legal guns to illegal markets.

Clearly, the licensing and registry provisions included in the Firearms Act are interrelated, and licensing on its own cannot do what licensing and the registry can together.  As Canada’s Supreme Court pointed out in their 2000 opinion on the constitutionality of the Act, the registry helps police officers to take preventative measures, and also aides in holding people who have misused firearms or sold them illegally responsible for their actions.

In closing, I would like to point out that since December 1st, 1998 (when the Firearms Act was first implemented) the notification line, which allows concerned spouses or individuals to report their objections about the acquisition of a firearm by someone they know, has received over 22,000 calls. 

Additionally, and in part due to Canada’s Firearms Act, there has been a 67% decrease of female homicides by firearms; while the rate of female homicides without firearms has only decreased by 10%.   Canada’s gun control law has been identified as a best practice globally in the reduction of armed violence against women.

An Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Shelley Saywell

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted July 23rd, 2009 | North America

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During IANSA’s Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence, Project Ploughshares held a public screening of Canadian documentary filmmaker Shelley Saywell’s Devil Bargain: A Journey into the Small Arms Trade. 



In Devil’s Bargain, Saywell tracks the global small arms trade.  Through the film, she illustrates the need for an international treaty to end the illegal flow of small arms, which fuels war and results in massive death and destruction.   


Based in Toronto, Shelley Saywell established Bashari Film Productions Inc. in 1987, to produce documentary films that focus on issues of human rights.  Through her films, she hopes to provide people with a perspective they might not otherwise receive, introducing the world to individuals both suffering from human rights violations and causing them. 


Saywell, who has been honored with UNESCO’s Gandhi Silver Medal for Promoting the Culture of Peace in 1997 and an Emmy in 2001 for Outstanding Investigative Journalism, was kind enough to participate in an interview with me, the questions and answers of which are below.





In your film, Devil’s Bargain, you focus for some time on violence (and rape) against women committed by soldiers in war-torn countries.  Do you think that the access these soldiers have to firearms empowers them to commit such crimes? 


Absolutely I do.   In 1995 I made a film about rape as a weapon of war focusing on rape in the Balkans, and small arms and light weapons were a major contributor to that terror campaign.    Women have no hope against armed men who have become inured to the violence and use the gun as a symbol of power and masculinity.  I asked why rape had become so prevalent in war and “soft conflict” zones, and the answer was “rape inflicts maximum pain”, and therefore is the most powerful attack mechanism – with the least amount of risk to the perpetrator.   The proliferation of guns, easy for any kid to use, have made this a daily occurrence in places like the Congo – where many women have been raped multiple times, Somalia, Darfur, and too many other places.


Taking it back to a domestic context (and one which applies to non-war torn countries), do you think that individuals that are abusive and that have access to guns are empowered by their firearms, and thus more abusive?


I believe that.  I am making a film about domestic violence in the immigrant South Asian/Arab community here.  In two of the stories I’m following the father/brother killed with a gun.  In one case, the gun he used was being “stored for a friend”, in another – a cabbie, shot both of his daughters multiple times.  Before that, he’d threatened them and their mother, shot out windows and car tires.  He might still have killed them without the gun, but the link of its possession to his violence and anger can’t be overlooked.  He felt powerless in our society, and the gun was a symbol of power to him according to his wife.


I made another film years ago called Angry Girls about girls and violence in Toronto.  I was shocked to learn that the majority of the teenage girls I was following had witnessed or experienced the death of a friend or family member by gun violence.   We are talking about the life of high school girls in many poorer neighbourhoods in Toronto.  


I’ve had a lot of individuals comment to me that for the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign to focus solely on women is unfair and biased.  Statistically, men make up the majority of perpetrators in cases of domestic abuse.  In addition, they also own the majority of firearms.  When you were filming Devil’s Bargain, did you come across many women involved in the illicit trade of small arms (because there were none featured in the film)?  If so, what were their roles?


There were no women involved in the illicit trafficking of weapons that I found.  That isn’t a scientific survey – but there were no female arms dealers that came across our radar, and we spent a year researching and reading reports before we began filming.   I think stats would bear out that this is predominantly a male game.  There were women involved in sales and PR for the big gun shows and “legal” trade, though much fewer than men.


Do you think the benefits of a screening process such as the one in Canada’s Firearms Act outweighs whatever the administrative/enforcement costs may be?


Yes.  When we measure COST we have to remember what these weapons do, in terms of individual terror and social instability.  When I grew up we never heard of gun violence in Toronto – that was New York or Detroit or somewhere else.  Now guns are becoming endemic.  We need to spend whatever it costs to try to control and register legal guns – so that the illicit trafficking can be monitored and stemmed.


Individuals who legally own their firearms and use them for sportsmanship purposes complain that it’s unfair to hold law-abiding citizens responsible for the protection of others through the Firearms Act and the registry.  How would you address this?


If you own a firearm legally, then you should appreciate and support the necessity of having strict controls.   I never understand the attitudes – especially of Americans with their Second Amendment rights – who believe binding gun laws and international treaties will somehow impinge on their rights.    All you have to do is look at a failed state like Somalia, where the law IS the gun, to know what the worst case alternative is.   The Registry is essential.




Why the Focus on Women?

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted July 21st, 2009 | North America

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Over the weeks that I have been in Canada, I have had a few inquiries as to why the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign, the first international campaign at protecting women from gun violence in the home, focuses solely on women.  

The answer is simple, gun violence is gendered.  Although men make up the majority of those who use small arms and die from them, their use has an incredible impact on women’s lives.  For instance, women often become the sole caregiver in families where a husband or father has been killed or disabled by gun violence. 

Additionally, and attributable to the notion of masculinity, men are more violent than women.  In many cultures, small arms use is linked to manhood, and violence is a means through which men gain power.  For more information on this perspective, visit this link to read the IANSA publication, “Men, masculinity and guns: can we break the link?”


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DV Logo


Furthermore, the types of violence women experience differ from men.   As Anthony Doob points out in Violence against Women: New Canadian Perspectives:

     -Female homicide victims are much more likely to have been killed by their spouses than are male homicide victims.

     -Women, overall, are more likely to be victims of violent victimizations than are men, particularly if they are separated or divorced.

     -Women in marital relationships are considerably more likely to be victims of violence perpetrated by their partners than are men in  such relationships.  

In Canada, the rate of spousal homicide against females has been between 3 and 5 times higher than the rate for males during the 30 year period from 1977 to 2006. One in three Canadian women killed by their husbands is shot, 88% of them with legally owned rifles and shotguns, the firearms of choice in domestic violence and suicide.

For these reasons, the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign focuses on women, aiming to develop an international network of advocates for women’s rights, who are committed to producing social change and curbing armed domestic violence. 

By doing this, the campaign hopes to help countries enact legislation to take guns out of the hands of actual or potential abusers and in countries where laws already exist, to monitor its enforcement and highlight lessons learned for future policy development and sharing with other countries.

Violence affects women differently than it does men and as such, needs to be addressed differently.

Member of Parliament Garry Breitkreuz

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted July 16th, 2009 | North America

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On June 30th, I wrote an email to Garry Breitkreuz, who has to date been the most vocal Member of Parliament to oppose the long-gun registry provision contained in Canada’s Firearms Act.  Mr. Breitkreuz has repeatedly introduced legislation to scrap the registry, and I wanted to hear from him directly and also share his opinion on my blog.

Large Portrait Photo
Large Portrait Photo

Garry Breitkreuz, Member of Parliament

I understand that to some I am just a grad student working with the Advocacy Project ‘to change the world’, but I thought Breitkreuz might recognize the importance of healthy debate and take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to talk with me, or at least to return my email.  What was I thinking?  I never heard back.

On July 14th, I followed up.  This time I included a link to my blog, so that he would see that many of his supporters have been leaving comments in support of him, and against the registry.  Of course this time, his office replied.  It was a polite reply, albeit generic.  Not once in the email I received was it mentioned that I had requested a brief interview.

Instead, to help me in my “quest to determine the legitimacy of the firearms registry,” one of Mr. Breitkreuz’s assistants invited me to read an essay that clearly states his position.  I am already aware of his position.  During the two weeks I patiently waited for a reply, I had already read the article, more than once.  I wanted to talk to him.

I was also kindly directed towards Mr. Breitkreuz’s website, in order to take a historical peek at his involvement in firearms issues.  In addition, I was provided the link to a publication that contains comments from frontline police officers on their feelings towards the registry.  I have already seen these things. 

I can take a hint.  I know what a response like this means.  His assistant did his job well by successfully deflecting my request for an interview.  Having to talk to someone who disagrees with him would have been an inconvenience for Mr. Breitkreuz.; pointing me towards websites and suggesting others that I may want to contact was a much easier route to take.

I must say that I am disappointed in the response I received, as I think that individuals who strongly disagree with one another are more easily able to find common ground when face to face (or in this case, phone to phone) dialogue takes place.  Additionally, Mr. Breitkreuz spent an impressive number of years teaching before entering politics, which led me to believe that he might understand the importance of engaging students. 

I sent the same request and follow-up email to Member of Parliament Candice Hoeppner.  Ms. Hoeppner has essentially taken over the fight for Mr.  Breitkreuz through her introduction this session of a bill that would eliminate the registry. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on Mr. Breitkreuz.  At least his office responded to my request, something Hoeppner’s office has yet to do.

Registration vs. Licensing

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted July 14th, 2009 | North America

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I have many people that are opposed to the registry, included in Canada’s Firearms Act, telling me that I’m incorrect in the assertions I’ve made about it.  I keep being told that I’m confusing my facts.  In reality, those telling me I’m confused may want to reassess their own comprehension of the Firearms Act, and specifically the correlation between the licensing system and the registry.

I’ve studied the Canadian Firearms Act in depth, and understand that screening is done when an individual applies for a license to acquire a firearm.  I also understand that an individual has to register each new firearm they acquire. 

When someone with a license registers their newly acquired firearm, it’s entered into the registry database, making it easier for police to track.  The police use the registry before responding to calls in order to determine how many firearms, if any, are in the home they’re responding to.  This offers police officers on the frontline an added layer of protection. 

In addition, as it is the law to register newly acquired firearms, if concerns arise through the screening process or as a result of individuals like Dr. Kane reporting their worries to the police, an investigation may be triggered, registration may be denied, and firearms may be confiscated. 

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. 

I have not confused the two; the registry and licensing systems are interrelated.

Canada’s gun registry has proven very useful

Elizabeth Mandelman | Posted July 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.

Fellow: Elizabeth Mandelman

Project Ploughshares in Canada


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