Recently, in a pre-election speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a group in a closed meeting that he needed a majority so his government could dismantle the firearms registry and focus on “the criminals,” not “law-abiding gun owners.” If only it were that simple.
Without information about who owns guns and the guns they own there is no way to keep them from dangerous people.
For women around the world, the greatest risk comes from their intimate partners. Fully, 85 per cent of women murdered in Canada are killed by their spouse or partner. Most who are shot are killed with legally owned firearms.
Gun violence is not just an urban phenomenon — the rate of women killed with guns is higher in rural areas because there are more firearms. Murders are only the tip of the iceberg — for every woman killed, many more are injured or threatened.
Four separate domestic violence inquests recommended licensing of all gun owners and registration of all firearms. Currently, licensed gun owners are screened for risk factors.
Registration helps enforce licensing and also makes it easier for police to remove firearms when there is a risk. Across Canada, police refer to the registry 10,000 times each day and routinely check for the presence of firearms on domestic violence calls, and so do other front line workers. Everyone should remember: “Ask the question. Save a life. Are there guns?”
Murders of women with guns have plummeted. In 1991, the year Kim Campbell’s firearms law was introduced, 85 women were shot and killed in Canada, (0.3 per 100,000). By 2005, this had fallen by well more than 50 per cent to 32 women (0.09 per 100,000). Murders without guns did not decrease as dramatically.
Canada’s law has been heralded worldwide as a model for addressing armed violence against women. And the United Nations has gone so far as to suggest that states that do not adequately regulate firearms fail to meet their obligations under international law particularly with respect to the safety of women and children.
The global campaign to end armed violence against women, launched by NGOs around the world, underscores the importance of regulating firearms to protect women. In Canada, we have made significant progress since the 1989 Montreal massacre focused attention of the problem of violence against women.
We should be moving forward, not backwards. As recent tragedies have shown, all too painfully, there is much more that must be done.