Although handguns have been regulated since the 1930s, regulation of rifles and shotguns began in 1977 with the introduction of the Firearms Acquisition Certificate. The laws were further strengthened in 1991, mandatory training courses for gun owners, a 28-day waiting period, stronger screening to acquire firearms, storage restrictions, and a ban on some military weapons. In 1995, additional gun control measures were introduced with Bill C-68 in which the law’s requirement for gun owners to obtain a license to own a gun – which under the law was renewable every five years – and to register the firearms in their possession. To date over 2 million gun owners have licenses and over 7 million firearms are registered.
According to a recently completed study by the National Public Health Institute of Quebec there have been three hundred fewer deaths per year since the introduction of legislation that created the registry ten years ago. Two members of the institute, Dr. Pierre Maurice, expert on security and trauma prevention, and Etienne Blais, a criminologist specializing in firearm injury prevention released the study to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. According to their study, since the Firearms Act came into force in 1998, we have witnessed an average decrease of 250 suicides and 50 homicides by firearms in Canada each year. The researchers found there have not been more suicides and homicides committed by other means In response to repeated argument about the exorbitant costs of maintaining the registry ($4 million per year), Dr. Maurice said that over 400 million dollars have been saved annually in connection with the reduction in deaths. “Approximately 75 per cent of deaths involving firearms are suicides”, added Etienne Blais. “With the registry, police can identify people who may use firearms against themselves and against members of their households.”
While there has been considerable focus on the problems of illegal guns, most women killed with guns are killed with legally owned guns, particularly rifles and shotguns. One in three women killed by their husbands and most (88 per cent) of them with legally owned rifles and shotguns. Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters reported that a shelter worker estimated that at least 40 per cent of her clients had been threatened with a gun.
In a national poll conducted by Harris-Decima and reported in the Globe and Mail stated that 58 per cent of respondents felt the long gun registry should be kept while 33 per cent felt it should be abolished. A margin of 65 per cent of urban and suburban women think keeping the registry makes more sense than 26 per cent that are for scrapping it.
“It is not city-born, city living folks who are asking for this registry to continue,” says Lyda Fuller, Executive Director of YWCA Yellowknife, “it is Northern women who fear for their lives and their mental health who are asking for protection. We see women who have experienced years of brutal intimidation. Women have told us that the guns used here in the North predominantly for hunting – that is, long guns – are also used to intimidate, subdue and control them. We hear this over and over again, in small communities without RCMP and in larger communities with RCMP. These women cannot safely express their need for protection themselves, and it is up to Canada to understand this and respond in an appropriate way.” YWCA Canada’s local Member Associations operate 31 shelters across the country, serving rural and urban populations.
The MPs voted on second reading in the house to send the bill (Bill C-391) to abolish the registry to committee and to hear from expert witnesses on whether to pass the bill, recommend changes to the bill or recommends defeat of the bill. After hearing from expert witnesses, from public groups and ordinary Canadians, on third reading, a majority of MPs voted not to abolish the registry.
Liberal Candidate – Westlock-St. Paul