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Jul-14-2010 00:03printcomments

The Best Use of Resources?

Are we abandoning more people than we save?

Gun store in Canada

(GOLD RIVER, B.C.) - Some things seem to never go away. One is the issue of abortion, another is the legalization of marijuana, and yet another is gun control. What they have in common is the issue of personal choice versus considerable state intervention into people's lives.

What they also have in common are the social and economic costs involved in exerting government control, costs that may well do more harm to society than if these areas were much less regulated.

Take the case of firearms. Any rational person would agree that there needs to be some control over lethal devices, but just like controlling a person's body or use of intoxicants, there are limits to effective control, and a point where the control itself causes more problems than it prevents.

Currently in Canada there is a bill in Parliament, Bill C-391, which will repeal the long gun registry. It should come up for final vote in September. Predictably the anti-gun enthusiasts are up in arms tossing statistics about to show how much safer the country would be with the registry.

My favourite statistic is that "police access the registry approximately 11,500 times per day across Canada." So what does that prove? The police certainly will use every tool that they are given, and should.

But it really doesn't tell us how effective the tool is in reducing violence. The right to conduct searches on a whim without a warrant would certainly help police, too.

By the same logic used to support the registry, this would be a good thing, also. There is also the argument that with registration the police know where all the firearms are and that saves lives since they know when answering a call whether firearms may be involved or not.

I have worked in law enforcement and that logic is a recipe for a dead cop, a dead, stupid cop. Believing that a registry will determine whether there will be firearms involved or not is living in a fantasy world. It would be better to know nothing than take it for granted that there are no firearms.

Prudence tells us that until proven otherwise by direct contact, every situation involves firearms. One does not need a registry to be prudent.

Proponents of the registry like to tell us that we do not know how many people are alive today because of the registry, the insinuation being that it has saved lives. Of course on the other hand we also do not know how many people are not alive today because of the registry. A case could be made that indirectly it may have cost more lives than it saved.

The gun control lobby likes to make a point that homicides with firearms have been dropping for about twenty years, and credit increasing regulations. According to Statistics Canada, though, the rate of firearms homicides increased twenty-four percent between 2002 and 2008. However, this is of little import given the low rate of homicides in Canada (611 in 2008).

In 1998 fifty-one people were murdered with a long gun. In 2008 that number had declined to thirty-four, so the number of long gun homicides has declined.

How much the registry is responsible is questionable, but, again, of little import. Setting aside the billion or more blown by the government to set up the registry, it costs about three to four million a year to maintain.

The question then arises, is lowering the murder rate by a dozen or so worth the expense? If that were the net result the answer might be yes.

But, is it the net result? What if that three to four million was spent on things like women's shelters and proactive violence reduction programs instead? How many lives might that save? Are we abandoning more people than we save? In a world as densely populated as ours we certainly need to have reasonable control over dangerous items for the protection of all of us.

Licensing people to operate dangerous tools makes good sense. But, in the case of long guns is registration a good use of resources, or does it do more harm than good?

Jerry West grew up on a farm in Fresno County, California, and served with the US Marine Corps from 1965 to 1970 including 19 months in Vietnam with the Third Marine Division, and three years at MCAS Iwakuni where he became an anti-war organizer in 1970. He earned an Honors Degree in History at the University of California, Berkeley, and did two years of graduate study there. While in university he worked seasonally in fire and law enforcement with the US Forest Service.

After university he worked for a number of years in the international tour industry in operations and management before moving to a remote village on the west coast of Vancouver Island where he is currently the editor and publisher of The Record newspaper serving the Nootka Sound region. He is a Past President of the Northern California Land Trust, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

You can email Jerry West, Writer, at:

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July 14, 2010 1:25 pm (Pacific time)

All dictatorships started with disarming the general population.

Ryan July 14, 2010 10:44 am (Pacific time)

The 11,500 hits are generated automatically and does not represent actual use of the registry at all. A large number is always impressive but that is all it is, a large number. It is useful only to those who use it as pro registry propaganda. Each time a firearm changes hands the registry gets 3 hits, When a criminal is released from jail it causes 5 hits, you know, wink wink, just in case someone in jail bought a rifle or shotgun from one of the numerous firearms vendors set up in the prison and then registered it. Why not increase this number from 5 to 500 hits and then the total although meaningless would be that much more spectacular.

Jim Pook July 14, 2010 9:37 am (Pacific time)

Jerry West is quite right with everything he says in this article. With one exception: Licensing. Licensing is even more evil than the failed Liberal long-gun registry. Licensing is a "people registry" and confirms permission by the state for what the Magna Carta says is a right. Americans wisely spelled out their right to own firearms in the Second Ammendment to the US Constitution. Canada did not write it down, yet the right exists in spite of not being recognized by the state. What Canadian firearms owners want is the total elimination of the Firearms Act brought in by a former Liberal government Bill C-68, and a return to firearm owner certification that we had under the old F.A.C program. It was simple, it was cheap, it was effective. Jim Pook Tahsis, BC Canada

LaserGuy July 14, 2010 8:40 am (Pacific time)

We have a constitution that guarantees "Security of the Person" HOWEVER, the police, the military, or the government do NOT have the mandate to protect the individual. That's up to YOU. C-68 made the simple possession of a firearm in this country a criminal offense. HOWEVER, the government, for a fee, will grant you a license (permission to commit a criminal offense) to possess a firearm. HOWEVER If this firearm is a handgun, you only have permission to have it in your home, or a registered shooting range. It's available in your home for self defense, PROVIDING it's 'stored' locked in a locked container, the ammunition is locked in a separate container, and it totally unavailable for your personal self defense. On the street, you have no rights, to ANYTHING that will prevent an attacker from getting close enough to murder you and/or your family. If The woman's groups, and the general grief industry REALLY wanted to save lives, they would be lobbing for the RIGHT to carry a defensive weapon, be it firearm, or even something as simple as pepper spray. But NO.. If the number of victims drops, the amount of cash flowing into The Canadian Grief Industry (TCGI) would dry up. So it really isn't about saving lives, it's about money, and it always will be..

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