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Long Gun Registration: A Poorly Aimed Longshot

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 45 Issue: 4 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 479-488
Philip C. Stenning
Date Published
October 2003
10 pages
This article discusses the myths and facts of gun control in Canada.
One myth is that having a gun registry is something new for Canada. Canada has had a gun registry for years (since the 1930's) although for most of that time only handguns and certain other restricted firearms (including long guns) have required registration. The 1995 legislative requirements are that long guns be registered. The issue is not whether a gun registry should be retained, but whether there should be required registration of ordinary long guns rather than just licensing, as was the case prior to 1996. One of the reasons advanced for universal long gun registration has been that it will help police in investigating crimes and in taking precautions when responding to certain “gun” calls. But the public has not been informed of how frequently the police made such requests, what proportion of requests concern long guns, or what proportion concerned registration as opposed to gun owner licensing. The focus on crime prevention and reduction as the principal justification for universal registration of “ordinary” long guns is questionable because these guns accounted for 10 or 11 times as many suicides as homicides during a 5 year period. The claim by the Health Minister that gun control measures saved 300 lives a year is unsupported by evidence. The fact that both firearms homicides and firearms suicides began their decline long before the requirement for long gun registration was introduced suggests strongly that if this decline was influenced by gun control measures at all, it is most likely to have been influenced by measures such as long gun owner licensing, safe storage requirements, and introduction of enhanced firearms training requirements. The question is not whether this intervention will achieve the desired results, but whether the investment of public funds in that intervention will achieve better results than other possible interventions. 16 notes, 17 references