6.12.2010

question for readers: why do you care so much about the gun registry?

I have no problem with gun owners being required to register their weapons.

And I have no problem understanding why the Conservatives want to repeal the long-gun registry, mostly as a sop to rural Canadians and a foil to the Liberals. (Not good reasons.)

And I have no problem understanding why the Liberals make such a fuss over the gun registry, mostly because they are bereft of ideas and leadership, and this is an easy issue on which to appear firm.

But why do so many people act as if registering guns actually cuts down on crime and keeps people safer?

Why are so many people who are otherwise not big "law and order" types so focused on the gun registry?

Why do people think that registering guns will reduce violence against women?

Supposedly women and victims of violent crimes (or their survivors) love the gun registry. Well, I'm a woman and a survivor of violent crime. And I don't think it makes much of a difference either way.

Please tell me your point of view.

And please follow the guidelines of this blog. Snark is not welcome.

27 comments:

CK said...

http://sistersagesmusings.ca/2010/05/07/tommy-why-is-your-research-so-biased-why-gun-registry-must-remain-this-time-with-feeling/

There are 2 graphs from StatsCan reflecting the reduction in both robberies and spousal homicides.

There are also links to pages that debunk some myths and more info about how beneficial the long gun registry is.

Also a story of a woman with registered weapons who had them confiscated when there was a domestic disturbance call to the house shortly after her mentally untable cocaine addicted son with a propensity for violence against his ex-spouse moved into her home.

I hope you find it useful.

We need tighter gun control laws, not more lax.

Steve has proven that if you give him an inch, he'll take 10 miles...vote down the registry and it won't stop there. It will go toward zero gun control.

We register our dogs and cars; why not something deadly like a firearm?

As for that Harpercon talking point of saying the registry criminalizes duck hunters and farmers;; well, no it doesn't if they register the firearm(s). If they have nothing to hide then I don't see why all the shrieking to have the right to conceal firearms. Law abiding citizens should have nothing to hide.

L-girl said...

We register our dogs and cars; why not something deadly like a firearm?

Perhaps you did not read the first sentence of this post.

Also a story of a woman with registered weapons who had them confiscated when there was a domestic disturbance call to the house shortly after her mentally untable cocaine addicted son with a propensity for violence against his ex-spouse moved into her home.

I hope there's more than anecdotes. Because I'm sure I can find anecdotes about how people were killed with registered guns. Anecdotes are useless when it comes to crime.

Steve has proven that if you give him an inch, he'll take 10 miles...vote down the registry and it won't stop there.

Also no good reason to do something.

Law abiding citizens should have nothing to hide.

This is the excuse that is used to invade our privacy (or try to) on a regular basis - CCTV, security checks, national ID, etc. Law-abiding citizens don't necessarily need the government checking in on them, regardless of what they have or don't have to hide.

However, please return to this post and read the first sentence.

I will look at the other links you've mentioned, but I hope they're better than this.

L-girl said...

I'm sorry, I can't make out what those graphs show. I understand the first one (Chart 4.3) shows a decline in spousal firearm homicides. This is correlated with what? A reduction in the availability of weapons?

And how does a gun registry reduce the availability of weapons? Aren't most weapons used in robberies and murders illegal and unregistered?

More information please.

johngoldfine said...

"Law abiding citizens should have nothing to hide."

Aw, ck, everyone has something to hide, just as WS told us in Hamlet:

Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?

Of course, as a USian, I don't actually have a dog in this fight, but I tend to agree with what I think l-girl is saying, which is that registries and such are security theater more than they offer an actual chance at safety, security, and peace.

CfSR said...

I spent considerable time thinking about the registry before I really understood why I supported it and why it merits supporting. I had, previously, supported it reflexively.

Over my career I've spent much time in rural and smaller communities talking to people and listening to their answers.

If you ask women in those communities whether they had ever feared that an angry partner or an ex-partner of a friend or relative would get his hand on a gun, the answer is almost never no. In Canada, those guns are long guns.

Talking to police who work in those communities closed the deal for me. I've had police officers tell me that gun registry information is useful intelligence in their response to domestic situations.

Many abusers are otherwise law abiding men. Their guns are registered and they have firearms licenses. Registry information helps officers make decisions.

For example, registry information can help ensure that police seize all the firearms in a home. To many tragedies occur when police only get some of the guns.

When police discover that they cannot find all the guns, suurendering the remaining firearms can be a condition of release. In addition, extra efforts can be made, should the firearm(s) not be located, to ensure that the family can have (if possible) alternative, secure housing.

Does it eliminate domestic violence? No.

Does it give police useful intelligence withwhich to better respond to domestic violence? Absolutely.

And that's good enough for me.

L-girl said...

CfSR, thanks for this. Obviously I'm not imagining that any law enforcement effort could ever end violence against women and children. That would be absurd to the extreme. But I do appreciate that there are many law enforcement tools that can help. Most of those were fought for by the women's movement and are now routine in developed nations, so I hear you, I know where you're coming from.

Are you telling me this is driven by the police, as opposed to advocates for violence against women? In my experience, police in all communities, urban or rural, want to keep track of what citizens are doing. Asking the police if they want to track gun ownership is like asking them if they want to wear uniforms or have sirens on their cars or the power to arrest people. Of course they do. But does the registry actually decrease the likelihood of violence?

I'm open to evidence - but not anecdotes. As JohnGoldfine suggests, security theatre is all about anecdotes.

By the way, I'm sure you know, that answer is that almost never no? Not just rural.

L-girl said...

Answers that will not persuade me:

We need a long-gun registry because the Conservatives say we don't.

We need a long-gun registry because the Liberals say we do.

We need a long-gun registry because the police say we do.

We need a long-gun registry because we must register everything else. (Not an argument, people!)

We need a long-gun registry because I once heard about a woman whose life was saved because a gun was registered.

CfSR said...

there has been a significant effort from anti-domestic violence advocates to underline the importance of the long gun registry.

The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters has done much work in the field. They have done research into the additional risks that firearms in a home pose in domestic violence situations in rural Alberta. IIRC, that work was undertaken with existing measurement models. I can't find a link to it.

There has also been work done on the east coast.

Exploring the Links: Firearms, Family Violence and
Animal Abuse in Rural Communities


The long gun registry has drawn together all sorts of groups who would not otherwise agree on very much. Yes the police support it.

And yes, advocates support it too.

L-girl said...

Thanks, CfSR. I'll look into those.

L-girl said...

I'm looking through these links, and I understand and appreciate all these different connections among attitudes, abuse, guns, women, animals, fear, and so on.

I don't know what registering guns will do for this, and I don't see anything yet about that. But I'll keep looking. Thanks again.

L-girl said...

Off-topic but related to one of the links CfSR posted, there is a big New York Times Magazine story on the links between animal abuse and other forms of violence, abuse and mental illness. I haven't brought myself to read it yet, but there's a beautiful bully boy on the cover. link

lance said...

I do not like the registry as I believe it is a path to confiscation.

I don't like that registering a firearm removes the judicial requirements regarding search and seizure.

I don't believe in creating law to criminalize people who previously were not criminal.

I agree with the safe-storage aspect of the law. I agree with the educational requirements of the law.

I would take issue with your statement describing the CPC's reasons for trying to eliminate the registry. As it's been in the manifesto of Reform, the CA, and the CPC I don't think you can really call it a sop to rural voters.

I don't agree with CfSR's statement about the fears of rural women. There isn't a farmhouse around here that doesn't have firearms and oddly enough, we haven't had any wives shot or killed.

It's a tool, just a tool, but some see it as evil incarnate.

johngoldfine said...

No facts or statistics for you, not even a crummy anecdote, but after sleeping on it, this is what I think: people opposed to a cctv surveillance state understand that a gun registry is a very minor restriction, affecting a relatively small portion of the population, and a much less significant phenomenon than internal ID, constant 'security' checks, erosion of human rights, and so on.

The slogan that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear' is deeply pernicious in my opinion. Not trying to be snarky, but that is the slogan of the police or of the fearful and unimaginative citizen who has no blessed idea of the sorts of inconsequential things that can get one in deep trouble in Dystopiasville.

We USAians (on the right) not only like to mouth that slogan but to simultaneously fancy that our bulwark against an intrusive government is our home arsenal. A paranoid's vision of federal agents arriving at the door to confiscate a plastic kiddie pool, a 60's muscle car, and a fat- and sugar-laden dessert is only soothed by the equally far-fetched notion of meeting the agents with a hail of automatic arms fire....

In the middle, we put our trust in such a fix, hoping that a bureaucratic registry or gunbuyer checks will be effective: such things are a hell of a lot of an easier, cheaper, and more obvious 'crimefighter' than fighting for social justice or investing in cities and jobs and schools.

On the left here, guns are so demonized that there's not much more rationality about them than there is on the right. Guns are BAD so no more argument is needed. Don't you even know that!

L-girl said...

Lance, thanks for your comment. I mostly agree with you.

I wanted to note these two things.

There isn't a farmhouse around here that doesn't have firearms and oddly enough, we haven't had any wives shot or killed.

It's good that there has been no gun violence against women where you live, but I wouldn't dismiss women's fears about their partners - nor would I presume that you know what those fears are. Very few people who haven't specifically looked into it know the fear and violence that lives in the homes in their own communities.

It's a tool, just a tool, but some see it as evil incarnate.

What are you referring to here? Guns or the registry? It applies to both.

L-girl said...

The slogan that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear' is deeply pernicious in my opinion.

Deeply, deeply pernicious and wrong.

In the middle, we put our trust in such a fix, hoping that a bureaucratic registry or gunbuyer checks will be effective: such things are a hell of a lot of an easier, cheaper, and more obvious 'crimefighter' than fighting for social justice or investing in cities and jobs and schools.

I agree. In Canada, many people talk about the gun registry as it is somehow a quick fix to violence against women - an absurd idea. I'm trying to understand it as a tool to fight VaW but I'm still having trouble seeing it that way.

On the left here, guns are so demonized that there's not much more rationality about them than there is on the right. Guns are BAD so no more argument is needed. Don't you even know that!

Yes, true. I come from an urban background, where guns do nothing but enforce fear and kill people - often by the police, who own them legally, use them with impunity and are never prosecuted for it. It's not that I'm pro-gun in any sense.

But as an urban and now suburban person, I don't think I can say that we should suspend search-and-seizure laws for those people over there - rural people - who may be law-abiding people and who keep guns.

I don't think asking people to register a weapon is a big friggin deal, but criminal sanctions and extra-judicial seizure is very troubling.

lance said...

Sorry, I meant firearms as tools, not the registry.

I don't think of the registry as a tool as it doesn't do anything. A tool is supposed to make life/work/tasks easier.

The registry doesn't do that.

You are probably correct in my over-generalization of firearms related violence against women and their fears.

....but, the same caveat applies on the opposite side. I don't agree with the caricature of rural peoples as women killing machines because they have a firearm.

L-girl said...

Thank you for clarifying.

Obviously some people see the registry as a tool to reduce violence. You disagree, and I think I do, too, although I'm less certain than you. I'm glad to have your perspective.

You are probably correct in my over-generalization of firearms related violence against women and their fears.

....but, the same caveat applies on the opposite side. I don't agree with the caricature of rural peoples as women killing machines because they have a firearm.


I agree completely.

There are many educated, urban people who see gun ownership as something neanderthal, a mark of ignorance and violent tendencies. I think that's as ridiculous as the stereotype of all urban people as unfriendly, or pretentious, or what have you.

I'll never own a gun nor live in a home with a gun. I reject the view that a owning a gun makes one safer. But I also reject the view that gun ownership is wrong and must be eradicated.

Thanks for stopping by.

Andrea said...

I am one of those people who have a great fear of anything and everything to do with guns.
I was present at a supermarket when there was a gang slaying and it was not a lovely experience let me tell ya.
I know that the gun registry would not stop people like them.

BUT

on the other hand if having the gun registry means that one woman is safer, that the cops can do just one job safer I am all for it.

And
in all honesty
if it creates one more huge distinction between the Canadian gun culture and the American Gun culture and their terrifying amendment that says usaians have the right to carry arms then I am ALL for the registry.

Micheal Moores Bowling for Columbine (yes I know Mr. Moore has his bits of total lunacy and has to be taken with a grain of salt) had tons in that movie that scared the crap outta me.

L-girl said...

That's a good perspective, Andrea.

I am an unapologetic fan of Michael Moore, and do not consider him in any way lunatic - not even sure what that means - so I'm glad that film made a big impression.

That must have been a horrible experience to witness.

I wish I could figure out how the registry does or could make people safer from gun violence.

redsock said...

(yes I know Mr. Moore has his bits of total lunacy and has to be taken with a grain of salt)

My only issue with Moore is that he doesn't go far enough to the left. He did some great things in F9/11, but he pulled far too many punches.

Could you share two or three examples of his "total" lunacy?

jj said...

"But why do so many people act as if registering guns actually cuts down on crime and keeps people safer?"

Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one who's asking that question.

Last week I posted about the registry (I'm opposed) and was immediately inundated with comments insisting that we need the registry because of... (fill in the blank with whatever famous shooting spree/anecdotal tale, none of which would be preventable by the registry).

So I began asking "But how would the registry have prevented that?" and some 60 comments later, have yet to receive a satisfactory answer. Hopefully you'll have better luck ;)

pg said...

Thanks for prompting such an interesting discussion. Because it is an article of faith that Canadian lefties of all persuasions support the long gun registry, you've made space for a discussion that rarely happens on progressive blogs.

If I were a gun owner, I would not mind registering my weapons (unless the fee was exorbitant). That said, I have not been convinced that the long gun registry has made life safer for anyone.

Proponents of long gun registration, such as the CLC, cherry pick statistics to make their point. For example: "Since 1991 the overall rate of homicides with firearms (including handguns) in Canada is down by 40%. But the rate of homicides with rifles and shotguns has plummeted – a decrease of 70% in the same period. The number of women murdered by guns has fallen from 85 in 1991 to 24 in 2004."

They attribute this trend to the stricter gun controls introduced in 1991 and the introduction of the long gun registry in 1995. However, Statistics Canada reports that homicide rates in Canada have been declining steadily since the 1970s, as have murders of women by their spouses.

StatsCan also reports that while long gun murder rates have declined steadily since the 1970s, hand gun murders have remained steady over the same period and even increased slightly in this century. If a centralized registry is responsible for the decline in long gun murders, one would expect a similar decline for hand gun killings. After all, hand guns have been registered centrally since 1951.

Declines in homicides generally, and gun related in particular, are likely the result of many factors. The declining trend in spousal murders, which also has been evident since the 1970s, too, has many causes. A major factor in the reduction of spousal murders, undoubtedly, has been the sustained campaigns by labour and women's organizations for measures to counter violence against women. It would be stretch, though, to give much if any credit to the long-gun registry.

The considerable public resources accorded to supporting the long gun registry would be better spent on programs proven to protect women and children: safe houses, better income support programs, anti-poverty programs of all kinds, and so on.

Here are some useful links:

Stats Can factsheet on family homicides: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-224-x/2008000/fv3-eng.htm

Stats Can study on guns and violent crime: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/080220/dq080220b-eng.htm

RCMP history of gun control: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cfp-pcaf/pol-leg/hist/con-eng.htm

CLC statement on preventing violence against women: http://www.canadianlabour.ca/action-center/keep-our-communities-safe/preventing-violence-against-women

L-girl said...

Thanks, pg. Excellent perspective.

I'm going to look further into your links here.

I do feel the need to point out that violence against women is not a poverty or class issue. It is just as prevalent among the wealthy and the middle class as among the poor and working class.

Anti-poverty programs are very much needed, and I would much rather see money put into those.

But just as there are plenty of safe and secure low-income homes, and plenty of economically disadvantaged people who do not turn to violence, there are also plenty of successful professionals who beat their wives and smack their kids around. They just hide it better, because their victims don't usually access public services, and no one suspects them.

Thanks, though. In general I agree with you and will look into those statistics more.

Andrea said...

"Could you share two or three examples of his "total" lunacy?"

K - maybe not lunacy just not getting it totally right or in some cases I have no clue what point it is he is trying to make.

I got his point in the Bowling movie. And his Sicko movie made me cry. Although his Canadian health care perspective was not totally right the main points were made. But then that one movie about the car manufacturing company. forgot the movie name, some sections of that I could not understand why he put that in there. I was all huuhhh???
Then the 9/11 one. Had me thinking but not completely believing. Just going hmmmmmm. some of it a little too conspiracy theory for me but some of it possible. definitely think worthy.

L-girl said...

Andrea, with respect, it sounds as though your calling MM "lunatic" is a knee-jerk reaction to possibly not knowing more about the subjects of his movies.

Farenheit 9/11 was completely factual, and there's loads more where that came from. It may be "too conspiracy theory" for you, but that doesn't mean you know the facts or that conspiracies don't happen, all the time, without your knowledge.

"Although his Canadian health care perspective was not totally right"

But no one perspective on Cdn health care is totally right. I agree with his view of it a whole lot more than the view of many Canadian conservatives.

"But then that one movie about the car manufacturing company"

This must be Roger & Me, his first feature film. It was about labour, and the crappy way labour and cities are treated by the corporations they serve. If every point in it wasn't completely accurate, it was a hell of a lot more accurate than CNN or Fox will ever be.

Truly, I don't mean to pick on you. It's just all too common to dimiss Michael Moore as a clown or a wacko with little or no basis for the label.

I wish we had a lot more people like him, and he wish he was willing to bring the same cutting wit to the US liberals as he does to the right-wing.

pg said...

Hi Laura. My reference to anti-poverty programs was not to suggest that violence against women is caused by poverty. Rather, what I had in mind was that poor women are less able to remove themselves from violent situations. Having economic security is one of the things they need to escape abusive environments.

That said, not all violence is based on misogyny and having to struggle for existence can cause men and women to behave badly.

Thanks again for starting this discussion.

L-girl said...

pg, you couldn't be more right there. Certainly low-income women are more trapped in abusive situations, often more economically dependent on their abusers, and their support network, their friends and family, are less likely to have the resources to put them up or lend them a pile of cash to get going on their own. Right you are.

I totally didn't mean to pick on your comment. It's a theme of mine, to always point out that violence against women knows no boundaries of income, class, ethnicity, etc.

I'm glad you came back, too, because we were talking about this at dinner tonight, how people should know better than to assume that two separate, concurrent trends have a causal relationship. Homicides of women by their partners goes down while gun registry comes into effect, therefore gun registry caused drop in homicides. Nope. We can call that the Rudy Giuliani theory of crime prevention.

I still can't figure out how registering guns protects women. But I'm trying!

Thanks for your feedback on the post.