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.