Monday, June 07, 2010

Gun registry vote this week

Update (7:15 p.m.) below.

A key vote in the gun registry battle is supposed to occur this week. The Public Safety Committee has recommended that C-391, the private member's bill that would scrap the registry, not proceed. It will now be up to the House of Commons to accept or reject that recommendation. As the rhetoric heats up this week, concurrent with the pressure, I thought I'd highlight two of the more compelling witnesses heard from in the past few weeks.

First, Quebec Minister of Public Safety Jacques Dupuis made an appearance before the House of Commons Public Safety Committee last week and gave a persuasive statement in support of the registry. His statement is well worth reading, the facts he presented were compelling. Just a few:
First of all, the Canadian Firearms Registry contributes to the prevention of tragedies and crimes against persons. In Quebec, between 2007 and 2009, we identified 169 spousal violence events involving shotguns or rifles, while there were 122 involving handguns.

The statistics also reveal that, of the suicides committed using a firearm, 9 out of 10 involved a non-restricted firearm. In fact, coroners have recommended that the Canadian Firearms Registry be maintained, following suicides committed with non-restricted firearms in Quebec.

When police officers respond in these situations, consulting the Canadian Firearms Registry enables them to quickly find out if the persons involved own one or more firearms, and if so, to remove them for preventive purposes.

The Registry also makes it possible to ensure compliance and monitoring of prohibition orders. Under the Criminal Code, orders prohibiting the possession of firearms may be imposed when a person is convicted of a violent crime or, for preventive purposes, when the person's mental state poses a risk to that person or to others. In the past three years, 1,042 prohibition orders have been imposed upon owners of non-restricted firearms in Quebec.
Thus far, 1,507,874 non-restricted firearms have been registered by individuals in Quebec, accounting for 95% of all firearms registered in Quebec. Abolishing the registration of non-restricted firearms would cause us to lose track of these weapons.
The Registry is also a useful tool for decision-making by criminal prosecutors—for example, in setting the conditions for the release of an accused, so as to enhance the protection of victims and of the public at large.
Another presentation to the commitee was similarly persuasive, Dr. Alan Drummond on behalf of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians:

I am with both of those guys.

It is a radical thing to destroy this registry as the Hoeppner bill proposes to do, without any proposal to amend it or improve it having been offered up by Hoeppner (or the government) out of recognition that the registry is used by police, Crowns, doctors, etc., who speak in favour of retaining it. There is nothing else on the table to replace it.

I hope the NDP, who seem to be on the side of saving the registry when they pose questions at committee, will do the right thing this week.

Update (7:15 p.m.): Just chatting with Sister Sage on twitter and she mentioned BCL's post linking to this news report suggesting a delay for C-391 that may be in the works. Hoeppner was also floating the notion that it might not come up for a vote before the summer recess in this piece. I am not clear on the rules as to whether one party - or maybe two - can delay a vote on a committee report or not.