Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - Bill of Rights

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Preservation and Proposition

Our mission is to document the pivotal Second Amendment events that occurred in Frontier Mercersburg, and its environs, and to heighten awareness of the importance of these events in the founding of our Nation.

We are dedicated to the preservation of the place where the Second Amendment was "born" and to the proposition that the Second Amendment (the "right to bear arms") is the keystone of our Liberty and the Republic.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why long-gun registries don’t work and never did!

Gary A. Mauser - December 11, 2012

In March, Stephen Harper’s Canadian government reversed decades of increasing restrictions on civilian firearms, scrapping the controversial long-gun registry on grounds that it was wasteful and ineffective. Gun laws, the prime minister correctly said, should focus on criminals rather than law-abiding citizens such as farmers and hunters.

Some claim that this Conservative policy flies in the face of a mountain of evidence, and even represents an assault against reason. Canadian voters seem divided on this issue, as well as some basic related questions: Are firearms in the hands of ordinary citizens a serious threat to public safety? Is registration an effective approach to controlling misuse? How useful was the long-gun registry to police? This article will answer some of those questions.
Gun laws generally tend to be passed during periods of fear or instability, and only occasionally reversed afterwards. In 1913, for instance, a fear of immigrants prompted Ottawa’s first serious handgun legislation, requiring civilians to obtain a police-issued permit to acquire or carry handguns. Non-British immigrants found it difficult to get a permit.

Fearing labour unrest as well as American rum-runners, Ottawa mandated handgun registration in 1934. In 1941, concerned about possible Japanese sabotage, the government prohibited all “Orientals” (including Chinese) from owning firearms. (After the war, these restrictions were rescinded.) Terrorism in Quebec swayed opinion in the 1960s and ’70s, spurring Ottawa to limit handgun permits for “protection” to a handful of people, such as retired police and prospectors. In 1977, a Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) was required to obtain ordinary rifles and shotguns. (The police decided to refuse an FAC to anyone who indicated a desire for self- protection. This is shocking given that in a typical year, tens of thousands of Canadians use firearms to protect themselves or their families, mostly from wildlife.)

The 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal prompted the Mulroney government to introduce Bill C-17 in 1991, prohibiting a large number of military-style rifles and shotguns. FAC applicants were now required to provide a photograph and references, and to submit to police screening. (Typically, vetting involves telephone checks with neighbours and spouses or ex-spouses.)

In 1993, the Liberals brought in additional changes to gun laws, passing Bill C-68 in 1995 (the Firearms Act). Over half of all registered handguns in Canada were prohibited. No evidence was provided that these handguns had been misused.

The heart of the Firearms Act to this day is licensing: Owning a firearm, an ordinary rifle or shotgun became a criminal offence for those who do not hold a valid licence. In addition, the 1995 law broadened police powers of search and seizure, and expanded the types of officials who could make use of such powers, and weakened constitutionally-protected rights against self-incrimination. To coincide with the “National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women,” the Firearms Act became law on Dec. 5, 1995. However, it took until 1998 to issue licences and require buyers to register long guns. In 2001, all gun owners were required to have a licence and, by 2003, to register all of their rifles and shotguns.

Not everyone complied. An estimated 65% of firearms owners registered at least one rifle or shotgun, and no more than half of all long guns ended up in the registry. Opposition was intense and has never abated. Grassroots anger helped to fuel the rise of the Reform Party, and contributed to the elimination of the Liberals as a political force in the West. Despite their mutual antagonism, three opposition parties (Reform, Progressive Conservative and New Democrat) united against the legislation. Only the Bloc Québécois voted with the Liberals.

In 2002, the auditor-general revealed that the Firearms Centre had grown out of control. Despite political promises that the program would not cost over $2-million, costs were expected to exceed $1-billion by 2005. By 2012, this had ballooned to $2.7-billion. The auditor-general uncovered irregularities including mismanagement and corruption. Her findings stimulated a parliamentary revolt. In 2003, Parliament imposed an annual spending cap. The auditors’ reports led to RCMP investigations of Liberal insiders and contributed to the fall of the Liberal government in 2006.

To this day, it has been claimed that the registry is important in protecting women. But in fact, there is no convincing evidence that registering firearms has been effective in reducing either homicide rates overall, or spousal murders in particular. Even though homicide rates have been gradually falling since the 1970s, a wide variety of researchers have been unable to find solid evidence linking gun laws to this decline. Changing demographics, not firearms laws, better explain the decline in homicides involving long guns over the past 20 years. It is difficult to argue that Canadian gun laws are effective when homicide rates have dropped faster in the United States than in Canada since 1991.

Another argument is that strict laws are required to monitor potentially dangerous gun owners. However, in my Senate testimony, I presented Statistics Canada data to show that anyone who has legally obtained a gun is less likely to be murderous than other Canadians. This should not surprise anyone: Firearms owners have been screened for criminal acts since 1979; and since 1992, they have been stripped of their firearms in cases where they commit a violent crime. (Ironically, Canada does not currently have in place a coherent system that tracks violent criminals on probation or parole ­ instead choosing to track law-abiding, licensed duck hunters, farmers and recreational sport shooters.)

A third claim is that long guns are the weapon of choice in domestic homicides, and that registration can help to identify the perpetrator. (This is related to the aforementioned claim that guns promote violence against women.) In fact, the long-gun registry and licensing are rarely needed by police to solve spousal homicides for three reasons: (1) in almost all cases, spousal murderers are immediately identified; (2) firearms are not often used to kill female spouses; and (3) the firearms used by abusive spouses to kill their wives are almost all possessed illegally. Statistics Canada data show that just 4% of long guns involved in homicides were registered.

In a typical year, there are almost 600 homicides and 60 female spousal murders in Canada. On average, long guns are involved in the deaths of just 11 female spouses. It is knives, not long guns, that are the weapons used most often to kill women. Statistics Canada found that most spouses (65%) accused of homicide had a history of violence involving the victim. None of these spouses could legally own a firearm.

Every home has a variety of objects, such as hammers or kitchen knives, that can be used for assault or murder. Creating expensive bureaucracies to register one or more of these items does nothing to protect vulnerable women.
A fourth assertion is that the long-gun registry is an important tool for the police because they use it 14,000 to 17,000 times daily. Besides mistaking frequency of use with usefulness, this claim is disingenuous because it confuses the long-gun registry with the Canadian Firearms Registry Online (CFRO). Almost 98% of the queries to the CFRO concern licensing, not the long-gun registry. The firearms registry contains only gun-specific data, such as the make or model.

The statistics show that police recover registered long guns in just 1% of homicides. During the eight years from 2003 to 2010, there were 4,811 homicides; 1,485 of those involved firearms; only 45 featured long guns registered to the accused. In none of these few cases have the police been able to say that the long-gun registry provided the identity of the murderer.

A fifth contention is that the registry tells the police who has firearms. This is false. Neither licensing nor the long-gun registry contains information about unregistered firearms. The most dangerous criminals have not registered their firearms. Trusting the registry can get police officers killed. When police approach a dangerous person or situation, they must assume there could be an illegal weapon. For this reason, experienced police officers have testified that they do not find the registry helpful.

A sixth claim is that the data in the long-gun registry are too valuable to be destroyed. Unfortunately, the many errors and omissions in the registry vitiate its utility. The RCMP testified to the auditor-general that they could not rely on it in court. Recent information shows that many errors remain despite the best efforts of the Canadian Firearms Program. Immense problems similarly have been reported concerning the accuracy of the South African firearms registry and the now-abandoned New Zealand long-gun registry.

The RCMP has reported error rates between 43% and 90% in firearms applications and registry information. An Access to Information request discovered that 4,438 stolen firearms had been successfully reregistered without alerting authorities. Apparently, the thieves had resold the firearms to new owners who (unsuspectingly) had subsequently registered them. This is a classic database problem: garbage in, gospel out. The irregularities stem from multiple causes inherent in any registration system.

The evidence shows that the long-gun registry has not been effective in reducing criminal violence. Nor is the Canadian experience unique. No international study of firearm laws by criminologists or economists has found support for the claim that restricting access to firearms by civilians reduces criminal violence. And so ending the long gun registry is consistent with the basic principles of good fiscal management. Arguably any government program that fails to achieve its objectives should be shut down.

In abolishing the long-gun registry, the Harper government was acting in accordance with the available evidence. It is the government’s opponents, whose ideological belief in the unproven efficacy of gun control blinds them to fact, who are out of step with the available evidence.

National Post

Gary A. Mauser is a professor emeritus at the Beedie School of Business and the Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby,, B.C. A longer version of this article appears in thecurrent issue of The Dorchester Review magazine.

No comments:

Post a Comment