This past weekend, groups across the country commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Montreal massacre. Families of the victims mourned their loss and recommitted to defending Canada’s gun control law, which they called a monument to the memory of the victims.
Twenty years ago, a man walked into l’Ecole Polytechnique, separated the men from the women and screaming — you are all a bunch of feminists — killed 14 young women and injured 13 others. His semi-automatic rifle — the Ruger Mini 14 — will soon be easier to get, thanks to Stephen Harper and other federal politicians.
On Nov. 4, the House of Commons passed private member’s Bill C-391, a bill that will eliminate the need to register rifles and shotguns. Nervous opposition politicians spooked by a well-financed, American-style campaign targeting specific MPs backed the Conservatives over the objections of virtually every public safety organization in the country.
In spite of the focus on handguns and urban violence, rifles and shotguns are a substantial proportion of the guns recovered in crime in this country. They are the guns most often used to kill police officers and the guns most often used in domestic violence and suicides, particularly involving youth.
Registration ensures licensed gun owners are held accountable for their firearms. If gun owners are licensed but guns not registered, there is no way to prevent legal gun owners from selling or giving guns to unlicensed and potentially dangerous people.
Opponents of gun control complain about the cost. But seven million guns have been registered. The money has been spent. The only guns that need to be registered going forward are new guns or those being traded. The costs — $3 million a year — pale in comparison to the costs of gun injury and death. And police consult the system thousands of times each day in order to take preventative action.
The law is much more than a symbol. Three hundred fewer people die from gunshots now compared to 1995, when the law passed. Our problem is not just the vocal and well-financed gun lobby. We can only hope that those who wore white ribbons to mark the memory of the women who died Dec. 6, 1989, will now take action.