Truth and the Long Gun Registry
August 20, 2010 by Ann Decter
There's a veritable fog of misinformation swirling across the country about the long gun registry. And now the person who knows the most about what the long gun registry does, how it's used and what it costs, RCMP Chief Superintendant Marty Cheliak, has been whisked away into the fog himself. Cheliak is widely credited with pulling together police opposition to dismantling the long gun registry, an opposition that is based on facts, not smoke and mirrors. Check out this information sheet put together by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian of Association Police Boards. Or listen to Cheliak's lucid, transparent and concise testimony before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) back on May 4.
Like those of us in the room that day, you'll see a responsible leader reporting factually on a portion of the program he whipped into shape. Forget that stinging $2 billion cost figure - the long gun registry costs $4.1 million to operate in a year, as reported by Cheliak in the most recent annual Canadian Firearms Program report, which is about the cost of three complex murder investigations . Lots of clarity there.
One incident Cheliak described to SECU was chilling. A family contacted their local police because the father was in a “depressed state” and they wanted the police to “remove all of the firearms from their home”. Family members told the police what firearms were in the house, then the police checked the registry. Cheliak reported that “A Canadian Firearms Registry Online query by local police indicated that there were 21 additional long guns in the home that the other family members knew nothing about. A warrant was obtained and all firearms were removed by police, preventing a potential firearms tragedy. Without the registry, there would not have been any knowledge of the additional 21 firearms.”
How many times have we seen the horrific news stories of families murdered by a depressed father? This potential one did not happen, because of the registry. How many lives were saved with that one check?
Cheliak’s voice has been silenced now, so here are a few more of his salient truths about the long gun registry:
- Registration of firearms allows police to verify numbers and types of firearms subject to seizure. In 2009, approximately 7,000 registration certificates were revoked for public safety concerns.
- There are common misconceptions that criminals don't register their firearms and that firearms destined for criminal activity would not appear in the registry. In actuality, many firearms recovered by police at crime scenes turn out to be registered and the CFP has assisted in solving a number of crimes by tracing a firearm to a registered owner.
- In 2009, of the 4,000-plus crime-related firearms traced to an owner by the Canadian firearms program, approximately 1,600 were registered non-restricted firearms, 1,100 were prohibited, and 881 were restricted.
- The program continuously monitors firearms registration records for unusual or unexplained accumulations. Pattern recognition software allows for the identification of anomalies or specific situations that should be flagged for chief firearms officers in the provinces and inspected. An example would be if the same individual acquires 10 or more firearms within a 30-day period.
- Without the database, tracing firearms, both nationally and internationally, would be very difficult and very expensive. Guns connected to criminal activities would be almost untraceable as law enforcement would not have a place to commence an investigation.
- This current real-time database allows Canadian law enforcement agencies to trace firearms nationally within a matter of minutes. Canada is, at present, able to offer reciprocity in tracing to police partners in the United States of America and other countries as a part of its contribution to global public safety.
For YWCA Canada, the nation’s largest single provider of shelter for women and children fleeing violence, gun control has always been about women’s safety. The long gun registry is clearly a public safety tool. Saving it is saving lives.