An Angus Reid poll out this week shows a vast majority of Canadians - 72 per cent - think the long-gun registry has done nothing to prevent crime. A survey of rank and file police officers is even more decisive, fully 92 per cent of them want it scrapped. Yet neither of these telling statistics will stop chiefs of police who are reportedly planning a taxpayer-funded lobbying and education campaign to defend the registry. They should stop.
A vote to kill Candice Hoeppner’s bill to scrap the long-gun registry is scheduled for Sept. 22 in the House of Commons. With numbers looking like the bill will survive, the long-gun registry appears doomed. As a result, the registry’s defenders are getting more and more desperate.
The registry has wasted some $2 billion and drains at least $106 million a year more from taxpayers from all three levels of government.
Police chief bureaucrats defend the registry because it gives them an excuse to purchase more computers, hire more staff and get larger budgets. However, the public gets that the long-gun registry doesn’t make it safer; it simply adds more bureaucracy to a process that already requires gun owners to be licensed before obtaining a firearm.
Defenders frequently trot out the statistic that the registry is queried 11,000 times a day by officers. However, this is because all queries of the Canadian Police Information Centre automatically check the registry. If you’ve been pulled over by police in traffic, it’s more than likely the gun registry has been queried. Of course, police are trained to assume guns are always present because criminals don’t register their firearms.
It’s worth noting that police chiefs have refused to commission a poll of their rank and file officers. No doubt they fear being proven to be out of step with the officers they purport to represent. An Edmonton officer conducted an online survey for Blue Line magazine and found 92 per cent of those officers surveyed favoured scrapping the registry. The survey revealed that police fear inaccurate data from the registry is affecting police safety in every province and territory.
Doubt about the usefulness of the registry is not limited to police officers. The Angus Reid poll reveals widespread Canadian belief that the long-gun registry has been a failure: 72 per cent think it has been ineffective and/or had no effect on preventing crime. The survey further revealed a plurality – 44 per cent – support scrapping it compared to 35 per cent that want it kept (21 per cent were undecided).
Importantly, despite a ramped up effort by defenders of the registry over the past several months, these numbers have budged little since a similar poll taken last November. Support for scrapping the registry is far deeper than the traditional urban/rural split in Canada.
Taxpayer-funded lobby and interest groups predictably beg for more and bigger government programs, regardless of their utility. However, it’s disappointing to see the chiefs of police join this bandwagon. Canadians should be mindful that the chiefs do not necessarily reflect the views of rank and file officers across the country. It’s likely any taxpayer-funded campaign of theirs to sell the public on benefits of the registry will prove no different than selling pyrite – fool’s gold.
Fortunately, the registry’s shine is long gone.
Kevin Gaudet is the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.