Monday, November 14, 2011

If you can't track the guns, you can't track the criminals

The Brady Law in the States, which is supposed to ensure felons don't have access to guns (they are supposed to be flagged by a background check), has proven to be a joke, the NYT reports today.   In just one state -- the State of Washington -- nearly 3300 convicts have had their "right to bear arms" that they forfeited, restored.   In one case, a man out of jail for just two months shot dead his girlfriend's lover -- then forced the dead man's fiancée to dump him into a river.     How did he get the gun?   They were in safekeeping through another friend while the guy was doing time in jail; and the judge who paroled the man said he had no choice under state law even though the judge knew the suspect was a ticking time bomb.

Here in Canada, of course, gun ownership is a privilege and not a right.   I know of some people who are perfectly law abiding but would never be allowed to get a gun license because of various mental health issues.    But it raises a question -- with the Cons bent on abolishing the long gun registry, are we about to become the outlaw country that the United States is -- and an increasingly woman hating one, thanks to the mostly white supremacist religious right and the even more non-white hating and misogynist Tea Party (two sides of the same coin)?

Or that Switzerland is?   While some of its very lax gun laws have been somewhat tightened to comply with general policies in the Schengen open border area that it joined in 2008 after much internal resistance (trade and tourism were the deciding factors in finally giving in), the fact is that most domestic violence incidents that result in death are the result of mandatory firearms possession (every male in Switzerland must possess a rifle until they are at least 30, 34 if they have served as officers).   The rate of firearms ownership there is about 50% higher than Canada (per capita) but only half in turn as that in the United States.    Part of the history is a long standing fear of invasion from its "enemies" but since every country that surrounds Switzerland is a fully fledged democracy and all of which are trustworthy enough to have open borders with, it's more an anachronism than anything else -- albeit a lethal one.

However, one of the reasons Switzerland has a higher conviction rate is that all guns, regardless of size, must be registered and provided with a unique ID number.   That makes guns easier to track and to finger the shooter (since missing weapons must also be reported).   It is true that there are quite a few unregistered weapons there, but if you get caught there you will more likely than not forfeit the right to possess a legal weapon.

Some in this country of Canada go to the old canard that we were trying to make criminals out of legal gun owners, and that a lot of unregistered weapons were making it across the border anyway, which is why the registry has to be abolished.   I agree that some of the penalties for non-registry are ridiculous and need to be revisited; but if we're getting rid of a $2 billion tool that police rely on, doesn't getting rid of the bathwater actually make their job more difficult and make the Harper government guilty of dereliction of duty -- not to mention it actually goes against their promise to be tough on crime?

You can't have it both ways.   Either you get tough on crime and increase the penalties for misuse of a firearm or the illegal possession of one, or you relax the rules on both.   Going at cross purposes (getting "tough" on one but easing up on the other) is a recipe for disaster.   The provinces and territories are well within their rights to say, if the feds want to get rid of the registry, they'll maintain their own -- and this I would support provided that they maintain a unified system rather than a "Balkanized" one.  The jurisdictions would also have every right to demand just and timely compensation for what would be another unfunded mandate on top of the one the Cons are creating with their "crime" bill.

Put it this way:   It makes as much sense as having capitalism in a country with a dictatorship -- sooner or later the regime must fall.   It happened in Yugoslavia, it's happening across the Middle East and eventually Mainland China too will rise up against its communist masters and usher in democracy.   I would welcome that day.   But then we'd better be prepared, because if we can't keep our own country safe from lead paint imports from "over there" heaven help us when we let people through with their firearms and rifles, in full view and not merely concealed, because we said it's okay for our own people.


Anonymous said...

Of course, it is all the fault of your political opponents. That's convenient. You then go further by accusing them of being misogynist.

Forgetting for a moment that here in Canada women voted for the Conservatives over the Liberal party by almost a factor of two to one it is a bizarre conclusion that you have rationalized.

The LGR has been in place for quiote some time. There have been no differences in domestic gun related homicides dring that period.

As many people have died falling out of bed then have been murdered by guns. (this includes handguns which are still registered) The bulk of these are not domestic incidence.

Mandated bed rails would save more lives and it wouldn't cost $2billion. Against this idea? You obviously hate toddlers.

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for Obama to start giving guns to Canadians also. Why should mexican drig lords get all the fun stuff.

lance said...

LOL @ citing a registries failure (Brady Law) to prove another registries worth...forgetting that it's also failed in Canada.