Stephen Harper and the long gun registry, facts and fiction

By Dennis Gruending

Haper's Conservatives and the Canadian gun registry.

Stephen Harper announced on April 4 that a re-elected Conservative government would scrap Canada’s long gun registry. That hardly comes as a surprise.  The Conservatives hate the registry. They tried in the last parliament to do away with it and have all of its records destroyed but they lost the vote narrowly in the House of Commons in November 2010. The Conservatives habitually use the registry as a wedge issue that they hope will dislodge votes from NDP and Liberal MPs in rural and small town areas. For a long while it looked as though the politics of division was working, but prior to last fall’s vote there was a growing chorus in support of the registry from police chiefs, emergency room physicians, nurses, people who run women’s shelters, labour unions and others. The Conservative bid to divide and conquer could well backfire in this election. 

The Firearms Act was passed in 1995, a response by the Liberal government to the 1989 massacre by Marc Lepine of 14 young women at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. The Act required gun owners to obtain permits and to have their rifles and shotguns registered. People were not prevented from owning and using these guns but they were expected to register them. Supporters of the registry believe it is a valuable tool for preventing gun violence, often arising from domestic disputes. Some people, for a variety of reasons, including a record of instability or violence, can be denied ownership if compromising information comes to light when they seek a firearms permit. With a registry, police heading to the scene of disturbances can find, by running a computer check, if there are registered firearms at the address.

Registry supporters

The Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Association of Police Boards all support the registry. The RCMP produced early in 2010 that said the registry works, but the government prevented its distribution for months and released it only reluctantly.

Myths and reality

Conservative MPs (and some others) untroubled by the facts have been constantly repeat a mantra against the long gun registry – but repetition does not make it true. Let’s look at some of their claims:

The registry is a financial boondoggle:

The registry’s implementation in the 1990s did go badly, a saga that involved large cost overruns and expensive computer software that at first didn’t work. But those problems have been sorted out and more than seven million guns have now been registered. The boondoggle argument is out of date and the registry’s costs are now modest. The RCMP manages the registry and reports that in 2009 the long-gun portion of the entire firearms registry (which also includes restricted weapons like handguns) cost $4.1 million to operate. Speaking of financial boondoggles, the government spent $1 billion for a three-day G8-G20 summit that occurred in Ontario last summer.

Criminals use handguns, while only law-abiding hunters and farmers use shotguns and rifles:

Criminals also use shotguns and rifles. There were 16 police officer shooting deaths in Canada between 1998 and 2009 and 14 of those officers were killed by a long gun. These weapons are also used in domestic violence and in suicides.

Gun violence is a big city problem but long gun registry targets people in rural areas:

In fact, gun deaths are higher in rural areas and Western provinces. In Yukon, for example, gun deaths run at about three times the national average.

The firearms registry does not save lives:

The Firearms Registry and associated measures have worked to reduce rifle and shotgun murders in Canada. Death and injury from firearms have declined by over 40 per cent in Canada during the era of stronger gun laws. Can all of this be attributed to the long gun registry? Probably not, but it is irresponsible to claim that the registry has had no impact in reducing risk and death, and even more irresponsible to want to get rid of it.

The firearms registry does nothing to prevent violence against women:

Safety experts and front-line workers women’s shelters across the country beg to differ. They say that the registry helps reduce violence against women. Do you prefer to believe them or to believe a gun shop owner on this one?

Making people register their guns means that law abiding gun owners are treated like criminals:

How so? We register cars, boats, mortgages, even bicycles and dogs. Nobody can seriously argue that they are being treated as second-class citizens for having to register a firearm, particularly when it has been shown to improve public safety.

The government wants guns to be registered so that it knows where to go to confiscate all of them:

This is the biggest whopper of them all and it is difficult to believe that anyone would actually use the argument — but read this from the pen of  Saskatchewan MP Garry Breitkruez: “Why are the police chiefs so strident in their quest to keep the registry in place? They won’t admit it, but it appears they don’t want Canadians to own guns. To that end, they need a database that will help them locate and seize those firearms as soon as a licence or registration expires.” The National rifle Association in the U.S. has been lending assistance to anti-registry forces in Canada and has spread this myth as well. It is either an entirely cynical argument or a symptom of paranoia. In either case, it is unworthy of adult debate.

The Conservatives are using every conceivable method to defeat opposition MPs who they believe are vulnerable because they voted to keep the gun registry. But a significant coalition of people and groups believe that it is useful and should be kept. In fact, it may well be Conservative MPs in closely contested urban seats who will be the losers if they persist in opposing the registry.

12 thoughts on “Stephen Harper and the long gun registry, facts and fiction

  1. The Conservatives have always authored revised histories to suit their ideology. This issue was resolved and bringing it up again will backfire much like the Coalition threat did last week. The Conservatives, are hoping to divide the nation with this “Long Gun phony scare” will only now discover it to be a “long shot” that won’t have the same effect as last time. 14 dead police officers….by long guns. How can Harper tell those families they need to scrap the registry?


  2. Can I reprint this on my blog, crediting this site and yourself?

    Dennis replies: Thanks for your comment. Please feel free to use on your blog with attribution.


    1. Can you imagine the look on Marc Lapines face (the killer of 14 students in Quebec) when one of the students pulls out her gun and ends the slaughter of innocent people??? All it takes is one licensed person to stop that madness.

      Dennis replies: Nice try but it would seldom work that way. No casual gun toter would be a match for a crazed gunman with military training.


  3. They should scrap the gun registry, as crazy as it sounds it will prevent more crime. If every citizen is armed like in texas noone is going to do crime knowing at any point they can get shot back at.

    Having a gun registry does not prevent crime it happens regardless all over canada.

    With the coming times and revolutions that will sweep this planet EVERYONE needs to be armed. So i do support scrapping the gun registry. It does not hurt to have a gun tucked away at home.

    Dennis replies: Everybody armed. Wow!


  4. People who argue that 14 officers were shot with Long Guns need to realize that this took place with a Gun Registry in place. It prevented none of these negative events.


  5. “It is either an entirely cynical argument or a symptom of paranoia. In either case, it is unworthy of adult debate.”

    Maybe you should brush up on your history!

    I think you should take a look at the Nazi Weapons Act of 1938.

    It starts with the registry and then leads to total abolishment!

    Dennis replies: Are you seriously suggesting that there is parallel between contemporary Canada and Nazi Germany? People who use the Nazi scare usually do so because they lack any arguments based on facts and knowledge.     



  6. I am totally for the abolishment of the gun registry %100. If I were to use one of my weapons to commit a serious crime I most certainly would not use a registered one.

    In short, the ones to fear are the unregistered weapons. lets find something more useful to spend our money on people.


  7. My neighbour committed suicide with his rifle. Ban long guns and save lives! No wait, my neighbours father had committed suicide also. It was at a family picnic and he drown himself. Ban swimming and picnics too!


  8. I know this is an old thread. I found it while looking for info on the abolishment of the long gun registry and had to comment.
    You expertise at statistics and drawing scientific conclusions from random “facts” is impressive.
    Here are some actual facts for you:
    In every state (US) where shall issue laws have been implemented, violent crime against the innocent. (ie: regular citizens) gas taken a nosedive. So yes, arm everyone.
    In England where private firearms ownership is all but banned, violent crime, including “hot” home invasions have risen by HUNDREDS of percentile points. Same in Australia. So yes, arm everyone.
    The ridiculous notion that banning something inanimate will reduce crime has been disproven time and time again. (drugs, alcohol, prostitution, etc.)
    Please stop with the rhetoric. If you don’t like guns, don’t own any. Please don’t attempt to remove my means if defending myself and those I care for. Feel free to dial 911 and wait for the police to arrive while your family is raped or murdered. Just don’t tell me I have to do the sane thing. My guns and I are no danger to you unless you attempt to harm or steal from me. (or infringe on my freedoms).

    Hi Gerald: Thanks for the comment. You talk about providing “some actual facts”, but provide no sources or stats. How do we know you’re not making this up?


    1. Information is readily available.
      Feel free to do your own research.
      I’d start with FBI and NIJ and go from there.

      One of the most telling and obvious examples would be two college shootings in Virginia, one where the students fought back and one where the could not due to school policy:

      We all know what happened at Virginia Tech…

      …and just for good measure, here is a more recent one:


  9. Gerald, get a grip! If you don’t have sources and haven’t done any research, just say so! You’re entitled to an opinion, but please don’t try and pass off opinons as facts.

    Old myths and logic trains that are off the rails just don’t cut it. Nor is anecdotal evidence even remotely close to the universe of statistical proofs.

    I’d like a little more than a ‘rottin’, tootin’, wild west shootin’ policy for dealing with gunv violence. The notion that citizens shooting it out with gunmen on college campuses across the nation is the solution to the problem of gun violence beggars credibility. If that’s the best you can offer, perhaps you should pay more attention to what others are saying.


  10. Any police officer who relies solely on the LGR to determine how he approaches breaching any closed door in Canada, is a fool, and that supports the argument against it’s usefulness as a warning system for the police. It is rendered redundant.


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