To those shooting down the gun registry Lana Payne

Lana
Lana Payne
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This is an open letter to those MPs who voted with the federal Conservatives to kill the gun registry, and to their leaders:

Dear Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, Scott Andrews, Scott Simms, Todd Russell, Larry Bagnell, Jean-Claude D'Amours, Wayne Easter, Keith Martin, Anthony Rota, Malcolm Allan, Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Dennis Bevington, Nathan Cullen, Claude Gravelle, Carol Hughes, Bruce Hyer, Jim Maloway, John Rafferty, Peter Stoffer, and Glenn Thibeault:

This is an open letter to those MPs who voted with the federal Conservatives to kill the gun registry, and to their leaders:

Dear Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, Scott Andrews, Scott Simms, Todd Russell, Larry Bagnell, Jean-Claude D'Amours, Wayne Easter, Keith Martin, Anthony Rota, Malcolm Allan, Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, Dennis Bevington, Nathan Cullen, Claude Gravelle, Carol Hughes, Bruce Hyer, Jim Maloway, John Rafferty, Peter Stoffer, and Glenn Thibeault:

Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the Montreal massacre.

That was the day a lone gunman entered a Montreal university, segregated the men from the women, opened fire, screamed he hated feminists, and killed 14 young women engineering students.

In 45 minutes, 14 young women engineering students were dead, 13 others were wounded. In 45 minutes, the world - for a lot of women in this country - changed.

In 45 minutes, violence against women was no longer a matter that was discussed behind closed doors.

And in the days that followed Dec. 6, 1989, grief and outrage turned to anger. That anger mobilized a movement - a movement dedicated to a safer world for women and men. That movement, which included the mothers of the murdered victims, victims' rights advocates and police forces, fought for and got a gun registry.

Last month, just weeks before the 20th anniversary of the worst killing spree in Canadian history, the federal Conservatives - with help from the Liberals and the NDP - have passed at second reading a bill to kill the registry, destroying files on 8 million firearms.

The decision to kill that registry on the eve of such a tragic event in Canadian history was no coincidence. It was a deliberate, craven and gutless decision that has sent our civil society cascading backwards.

The gun registry is a divisive issue. The right wing in Canada has kept this issue alive, has fuelled the anger.

But to take this action on the eve of Dec. 6; to take this action while the mothers of the murdered young women pleaded with our government not to; to take this action at this time reveals something about the Harper government. It reveals their contempt for those of us who fight to end violence against women and for a safer world.

I know there are those who disagree with me on the gun registry. I heard from some of them when I wrote on this issue a few weeks ago. But I also heard from hunters, who said they have absolutely no problem registering their guns.

And they were very practical with their comments. The registry is already created, why dismantle it now, destroying all those firearm records?

For those who oppose the registry, I ask this.

I ask that you think of your daughter and I ask that you think about her finding herself in a troubled or violent relationship, because it happens, far too often.

I ask, wouldn't you want the police to know if there are guns in her house before they are called to defuse a domestic dispute?

The police use this registry nearly 10,000 times a day. They say it has saved the lives of countless women and police officers. They say it has made a difference. They say there has been a 50 per cent decrease in the number of spousal deaths since gun owners have been required to register their long guns.

And I ask, what is the big deal? We register our cars, we register our boats, we register our pets. And we can and should register our guns. If it saves one daughter's life, one person's life, isn't it worth it?

Saves lives

According to the Coalition for Gun Control, the gun registry has also resulted in fewer suicides, especially among young men. That's because the Canada's Firearms Act reinforces the safe storage of guns which are intended to reduce unauthorized access and gun theft so legal guns do not end up in the illegal gun trade.

The registry also provides for screening and checks. In other words, if someone obtains a licence and then exhibits behaviour which suggests they are a risk, there is an ability to revoke or remove the firearms. According to the coalition, this saves lives.

Many of the Liberals and New Democrats who voted against the registry did it because they worried they might lose their seats because the Conservatives had been running nasty, American-style ads in their ridings.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, "fear has its use, but cowardice has none."

Which was at play in the vote on the gun registry?

There is a chance to save the gun registry. It still has to go through to third reading and the Committee process.

Nathalie Provost was injured in the Montreal massacre. Last week she wrote: "How could this happen? Because the gun lobby is highly motivated and active in every electoral riding while the supporters of gun control do little or nothing. We would therefore ask that you take action, that you call your member of Parliament and demand they stand up for gun control. Lives depend on it. Indeed, we must all work together to make Canada a safer and more open society."

This Dec. 6, remember the 14 women murdered 20 years ago.

Remember, and take action.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by e-mail at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns Dec. 19.

Organizations: Conservatives, Montreal university, NDP Coalition for Gun Control Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Montreal, Canada

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