Canadian Unlicensed Firearms Owners Association
Association canadienne des propriétaires d’armes sans permis

A Cancer of the Soul

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Gun licences should go the way of the registry
Lorne Gunter
The National Post
October 25, 2011

Last week, several victims’ rights groups banded together to declare that the federal Tory government wasn’t listening to them concerning the long-gun registry. That’s what people always say when someone else hears what they’re saying but continues to disagree with them — you’re not listening.

I’m quite certain the Tories have listened to the victims’ groups’ arguments in favour of retaining the registry. But as the introduction of Bill C-19 on Tuesday demonstrates, the government simply doesn’t buy the assertion that the registry is needed to cut crime.

There is no evidence whatsoever that in its 14 years of existence the registry has lowered Canada’s crime rate, so there is no reason to believe that retaining the federal database on long guns and their owners will ever prevent the violent crimes victims’ rights organization highlight.

A long time coming: Gun owners cheer the end of the long-gun registry
There is less gun crime in Canada than in 1998 when the registry opened its doors, but there was already less in 1998 than there had been in 1988, and less in 1988 than there had been in 1978.

The peak year for violent crime per capita in Canada was 1975. The rate has declined more or less steadily since then.

Gary Mauser, an emeritus professor at the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., says the same is true of licensing. The Tories aren’t planning to get rid of the requirement that all gun owners obtain a federal firearms licence, but they could. In his research over the past two decades, Prof. Mauser has found that while the murder rate went gone down 1% in the first decade after licensing became a requirement, it had gone down 9% in the decade before licensing.

Just as the Tories are getting rid of the registry, they could also do away with licensing without jeopardizing public safety. But putting an end to licensing will likely have to wait. The government seems intent on keeping it, if for no other reason than it enables them to say they are concerned about gun safety, it’s merely the expensive, useless gun registry they’re after.

Other statistics uncovered by Prof. Mauser also point to the uselessness of owner licensing.

Gun owners have long (and correctly) argued that registering guns is useless as a crime-fighting strategy because criminals don’t register their guns. So how could a registry possibly stop crime?

Preliminary findings from a study done by Prof. Mauser are pointing to similar conclusions about licensing.

According to statistics provided by the Library of Parliament and Statistic Canada, of the 7,720 homicides committed between 1997 (one year before the registry opened) and 2009, just 95 (1.25%) were committed with a firearm registered to the accused murderer, and only 151 (1.98%) were committed with a gun by a person who held a valid firearms licence.

In other words, just over 3% of Canadian homicides in the licensing era have been committed by licensed gun owners using guns – registered or otherwise – even though licensed owners make up about 8% of the population.

It’s a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison. The 7,720 total is for all murders including those committed using knives, crowbars and fists, as well as guns, whereas Prof. Mauser’s analysis of murders committed by gun owners includes only murders in which a gun was the deadly weapon.

Still, the murder rate among gun owners using a gun is just 0.38 per 100,000 licensed owners, while the overall murder rate in Canada since 1997 has been about 1.85 per 100,000 population.

It may take several more months for Prof. Mauser to come up with a murder rate among licensed owners regardless of weapon or methodology, but it is hard to believe that licensed gun owners are wildly more murderous with other objects. So it is a pretty safe bet the general murder rate among licensed gun owners will turn out to be noticeably less than the murder rate for the general population.

The point is clear: Legal gun owners were among the people least likely to commit murder even before the government required then to acquire licenses. So owner licensing is every bit as pointless as gun registration.

National Post