Guns and the mentally ill

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The tragedy in Conception Bay South has shocked our town and the province as a whole. Our safe haven, away from the mainstream violence we see today in the world, has been tarnished by a heinous act of violence leaving three dead. After the crying, consoling and comforting, we must look to ensure that incidents like this remain a scarcity.

To say that we will ensure no more incidents such as the most recent shootings will occur is irresponsible and politically pandering to anti-gun extremists. There will always be guns and there will always be bad people who will manage to get their hands on gun to wreak havoc. The question is how do we reduce criminal access to guns while not gagging those who use firearms responsibly with red tape?

The Harper government ordered the destruction of the long-gun (non-restricted) firearms registry. On April 5 of this past year, the registry was no more. Quebec, as always, put up a fight against the federal government to keep the information pertaining to Quebec residents, but recently lost that battle in the Supreme Court of Canada. The Harper government has reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining the handgun registry and cracking down on gun violence.

As a reaction to the 1989 L’École Polytechnique massacre, the registry calmed anti-gun activists and gave peace to a worried nation. But the empty political promise that is the registry has done nothing but become a burden to taxpayers. The registry first estimated to cost a mere $2 million annually, on its deathbed had ballooned to over $66 million a year, and yet where are the results?

According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, from 2002-2009 the most commonly used weapon in homicides involving a firearm was a handgun at almost 63 per cent. That was whether or not the firearm was registered, non-

registered or recovered.

What is the damning evidence of the long-gun registry is that registered long guns accounted for only 73 of the over 1,300 murder cases during that time period. The C.B.S. incident was committed with a handgun, further contributing to the fact that it is handgun regulation that needs to remain ample and effective.

The question shouldn’t be whether or not we add more red tape and restrictions to those who register their firearms and use them responsibly, but how we further deter and reduce the unregulated flow of unregistered, illegal guns on our streets.

With the reallocation of $66 million from the defunct registry, we can and should see an increase in front line officers in local, regional and national police forces that work to remove guns from our streets and stop more from crossing international borders. We need an even further crackdown on organized crime and those who traffic illegal guns, allowing children, offenders and the mentally ill to access guns that can then become weapons of crime. That will only happen with more police presence and RCMP officers working behind the scenes to track down these criminals — not sitting behind a computer screen looking at a list of names of people who already obey the law.

Cracking down on illegal trafficking of illegals guns is not the only concern. Mental health and well-being is a top priority of those who are charged with regulating and enforcing firearms laws in Canada. Relationship breakdowns, mental illness and general stability are all taken into account when issuing and renewing Canadian firearm licences.

The assailant and one of the victims in C.B.S. were previously in a relationship, and the system failed to recognize the magnitude of the impact on the man’s mental health. The system failed, period. If there were tighter metal health standards for licences and increased renewal times, this tragedy could have been avoided, the problem picked up earlier and the man directed to the mental health care he clearly needed.

Together we can ensure that firearms can be used responsibly and enjoyed for the hobbies and traditions we enjoy here in our province and across the country. We can use our resources effectively, not to politically pander, and ensure that our system works for the safety of all.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victims, and we owe it to them to do better with our firearms laws and regulations to make sure that tragedy never hits our happy province again.

Noah Davis-Power is a student at

 Memorial University and a resident

of Conception Bay South.

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, Canadian Centre, Justice Statistics RCMP

Geographic location: Quebec, C.B.S., Canada Conception Bay South

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Recent comments

  • jerimiah demarco
    November 21, 2013 - 09:37

    lets face it common sense will simply and ultimately tell us responsible human beings to start and realize that hanguns should not be allowed to be purchased by any business establishment whatsoever . handguns are a safety issue and should not be sold in our society where mental illness is such a serious volatile issue and will no doubt get worse before it gets better.go figure . C O C E R N E D

  • MJ
    November 20, 2013 - 18:13

    I have, like others here, a concern about the insinuation that those who are mentally ill are the ones we need to fear when it comes to gun violence. Furthermore, Who, may I ask, are the anti-gun extremists? What does one need to say to fit in that category? Your words, Noah, are not those of a reasonable debate. They are those of insinuation, generalization and inflammation.

  • H Jefford
    November 20, 2013 - 14:31

    There is nothing wrong with a gun registry , I have several guns registered , If there is a need for police to be called to my home for any reason they can check the gun registry and find out if there are guns registered at that address

    • Patrick
      November 20, 2013 - 16:07

      If your firearms are non-restricted, they are no longer in any registry database as the wasteful and ridiculous LGR is now abolished. If you own restricted weapons, then yes they are still in the restricted database. Thank god the LGR was abolished as it accomplished nothing.

  • Cashin Delaney
    November 20, 2013 - 12:42

    Take care when conflating the protection of government and police with that of communities and the meek. The source of legal-illegal firearm pistols that may be at increased risk, in a "ganster's shortage", may be civilian security personnel. In the age of bitcoin, do we need people making less than plumbers wages for risking life and limb guarding trucks full of polymer paper with handguns, while a theoretical victim of chronic domestic abuse protects her precious children with a rolling pin and 9-1-1? Clergy and blaste-writers with fatwas on them carry pistols for less intimate intimidation by far, than in the long suffering case of the female victim in this circumstance. Most people have nothing to hide in a tolerant society. A society becomes tolerant when people are not forced cohersed to hide and be silent. Law enforcement must widen its wings to encompass more mitigation measures. We can't depend on Jake and Malachy to car chase away our demons of the individual rights vs public responsibility mystery. It's only polymer....

  • RB
    November 20, 2013 - 12:25

    I don't think that anyone should be able to buy a hand gun. There is no good going to come from a person owning a hand gun. They should only be able to be handled by police officers.

    • Patrick
      November 20, 2013 - 16:10

      I own 3 pistols, 2 six guns and 1 semi auto .45. All are legally owned and I shoot them regularly at the range. Explain why I shouldn't own them?

  • chari
    November 20, 2013 - 11:44

    Any person on this planet could without notice lose touch with reality. There are millions of people in this world without proper diagnosis of mental illness. I take offence, Mr. Davis-Power, to your insinuation that people who have mental illness are more apt to be criminally responsible for gun violence. As a matter of fact, I'm shocked that you of all people are pidgeon-holing and branding groups of people. Look at the man in the mirror before you cast your shards at others. "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • saelcove
    November 20, 2013 - 10:37

    There should be a total ban on all hand guns

    • Patrick
      November 20, 2013 - 16:12

      Not a chance! There are too many of us who legally and responsibly own them. We wouldn't stand for it.

  • PaulStJohn's
    November 20, 2013 - 09:56

    The shooter, in this case, was not a criminal until the day this event took place and all his weapons were legally owned. What exactly does "tighter mental health standards" mean Mr. Davis-Power? If you can't be more specific than that, you are merely spouting empty rhetoric.

  • JD
    November 20, 2013 - 08:52

    I do agree, however there is even limited mechanism for temporary mental illness or instabilities. In theory someone could register a weapon in good faith for years. Then, at a later point in life, undergoe hardships of a magnitude to drive them to depressive cycles. I think gun ownership should be a privledge and not a right. The permits should require periodic and random review of the possessor. Its not an assumption of guilt or bad intent, but for the protection of all to have valid review - and give the police the ability to act on public tips. Investigations for violence or other behaviours should result in immediate and temporary suspension of the permits until the matter is resolved. Individual rights vs public safety is always a slippery slope. Regardless of how we descend, there is little possibility of change.

  • CFA
    November 20, 2013 - 07:29

    If I'm an "anti-gun extremist," does that make yoiu a "pro-gun extremist?" Also, does my opposition to cancer make me an "anti-cancer extremist?"

  • Politically Incorrect
    November 20, 2013 - 07:22

    Isn't it interesting that Harper dumped the registry and the long-form census on the supposed grounds that they "infringed on privacy," yet they're keen to keep an eye on all of us through the various "security" agencies. It's also interesting that many of the people who applauded the cancellation of these programmess are some of the most ardent supporters of government surveillance including the $2.1B CSEC Complex. But the important thing is that Noah can "enjoy" his "hobby and traditions."