Saturday 26 March 2011

Guns, law & order, & Stephen Harper

The interesting thing about staring down a gun barrel is how small the hole is where the bullet comes out, yet what a big difference it would make in your social schedule. ~~P.J. O’Rourke, Holidays from Hell, 1989

About 80 per cent of Canada's nine million guns are owned by men, so perhaps by definition, gun control is a "woman's issue." And repeated polling shows a substantial majority of women support the gun registry, perhaps because we know that guns are often used to harm or intimidate women in the throes of domestic violence. Women around the world are at greatest risk of harm from their intimate partners—“the usual suspects” in such cases. Fully 85 per cent of Canadian women who are murdered are killed by their spouse or partner, and most of those shot dead are killed with legally owned firearms.

Despite pro-gun lobby bluster, this gun violence is not just an urban phenomenon — the rate of women killed with guns is higher in rural areas because rural people own more guns. And murder is just the tip of the domestic violence iceberg—for every woman killed, many more are injured or threatened. And these “domestic violence” incidents appear in the papers almost daily. Several examples from a short period in 2009 (when this article originally appeared):

Smith AB, July 30th: Ian Jeffrey Paget kills estranged wife Joan Hanson, her daughter and granddaughter, and then turns the rifle on himself at her rural home in northern Alberta.

Kitchener ON, August 11th: Nadia Gehl is shot in early February at a bus stop near her home. Months later, police nab 3 suspects: her husband and two of his friends.

Orangeville ON, September 13th: Police investigate a murder-suicide that left a mother of two and her estranged husband dead. Witnesses say 39-year-old Heidi Ferguson, shot in the chest, sought help at a neighbour's. As she lay dying, Ferguson reportedly cried, "I've been shot by my husband ... please help me." An avid hunter and gun collector, Hugh Ferguson turned the gun on himself after a standoff with police.
Winnipeg MB, September 17th: Police are called after a 19-year-old woman is allegedly assaulted and threatened with a firearm. The woman flees the house and calls police from another area residence.

Fort St. John BC, September 30th: A northeastern B.C. man is shot and killed by the RCMP after a five-day standoff that began when the 41-year-old farm resident pursued a van carrying his wife, an unspecified number of children and a friend, and shot out the front tires.

Since the gun registry was created, close to 23,000 firearms licenses have been refused or revoked because of safety concerns. We register our cars and our dogs--not to register our guns would be criminal.

No matter what the gun lobby says, gun control works. Consider the following :
· Controls on rifles and shotguns were strengthened in 1991: that year 1441 Canadians were killed with guns. By 2005, the number of such deaths dropped by almost half, to 818.
· The number of women murdered with guns fell from 85 in 1991 to 32 in 2005. But the number of women murdered by weapons other than firearms declined only slightly during the same period of time. Again, the effectiveness of gun control is inescapable.

My son was at Dawson College on September 13, 2006 when Kimveer Gill went on his murderous rampage. I will never understand why Mr. Gill had such easy access to such enormous firepower--the fact that he managed to kill “only” a single young woman was due to the fortuitous coincidental presence of two brave and well-trained police officers. (I say “only” because, of course, for her parents, family and friends, the murder of 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa is no small loss.) Kimveer Gill didn't need those guns and he shouldn't have had them. Why should his right to feel "big and bad" have trumped Ms. De Sousa’s, my son's, or anyone else’s safety?

And so I support more gun control, not less. Please don’t let Stephen Harper destroy our gun laws.

Though our Prime Minister may refuse to face it, rifles and shotguns are the firearms used most often to threaten women and children, and the weapons of choice in the murder of police officers. Look, for example, at the 3 Mounties killed in Mayerthorpe, AB. And the only charges levied in that case were against the gun providers, who were traceable because of the gun registry!

When Mr. Harper talks about law and order one day, and gutting gun control the next, I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.
Contact your MP on this issue. Don't let Mr. Harper play fast and loose with our children's lives.


  1. Beverly

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful, well-reasoned and fact-filled article!


  2. Wow. How can someone with a science degree write such a misleading statement?

    "Fully 85 per cent of Canadian women who are murdered are killed by their spouse or partner, and most of those shot dead are killed with legally owned firearms."

    For the above to make sense, we'd need to know a) how many women are murdered? b) how many of those are killed by a firearm? c) how many in a and b are murdered by their spouse or partner d) how many of those firearms are legally owned? e) the gender of the spouse or partner.

    I'm a woman, and I still say, "Sheesh."

  3. Hi Diane

    Thanks for reading...I invite you to follow my blog, FB & tweet it!

    Best to you,

    Bev Akerman

  4. This is terrible for sure. Problem is gun registry does not and will not lessen these incidences. You quote the US, but they have no gun control at all so their statistics are irrelivent here. Gun control is good and we do need a way to stop illegal guns, but the registry does not prevent illegal uses of firearms. Statistics Canada reports firearm crimes are up 15% from 2008 (1479 crimes) to 2009 (1716 crimes) so it's not working. The money used to sustain this program would be better utilized if given to the police to get illegal guns off the streets. Perhaps the thing to do rather than registering each and every gun to a legal owner is to make it harder for a person to get their license to own a gun in the first place, that would be more effective. Once someone is proven to be licenseablw. This registry is only a false sense of security.


  5. Excellent article Beverly...thanks for making the reality of domestic violence visible in the discussion to keep the long-gun registry.
    You might be interested in this article I co-authored with Jeanne Sarson about guns used in non-state torture - or torture in the private sphere/homes:
    Canada:Torturers,Guns and Bullets:

  6. out of all the incidents you listed, not one could have been prevented by the LGR. And obviously didnt in either of those cases. The LGR does not keep people safe.

  7. Amen. However, even the official opposition has sent enough of a timid message on the importance of Gun Control that it will be a difficult and likely long battle ahead.
    Kyoto, Kelowna, now gun registry... thanks again Jack, for nothing.

  8. Make watching Polytechnique a requirement , as well as reading this blog-for all human beings. I am unable to describe my feelings when some person feels that registering a gun infringes on his- what / rights ? To hell with all the murdered and tortured women, huh -

  9. The good guys (that would be us) are winning and the bad guys (that would be you) are losing. Time to deal with the failure of your movement, but at least you can be a shoulder for Windy Wendy to cry on, eh!

  10. The need for the long-gun registry has been repeatedly demonstrated by the 2010 Evaluation Report by the RCMP and the various enquiries and commissions over the last decade, including the latest inquest in London. The long-gun registry is used: when intervening with people at risk of suicide or domestic violence; executing prohibition orders; tracing guns recovered from crime scenes; cracking down on the black market; reducing accidents by making it more likely for people to comply with safe storage; prosecuting various gun-involved crimes; etc.

    Bill C-19 removes the requirement in place since '77 that gun dealers record purchaser information making any private sale acceptable if the seller has no reason to believe that the buyer is not licensed. No evidence of compliance is needed and it is illegal to retain such information
    Bill C-19:
    1. Makes verifying a firearms purchaser's licence voluntary, increasing the chance unlicensed individuals will be sold rifles and shotguns.
    2. Eliminates recording of non-restricted gun sales which have been in place since 1977.
    3. Erases data on 7.1 million rifles and shotguns currently registered despite data are useful for firearm tracing purposes and is consistent with international treaties that require record-keeping to reduce illicit trafficking.

  11. You state yourself that assaults and murders were reduced by 2005 using firearms but use of other means to assault and murder barely changed. Dosn't that tell you the firearms are not the issue? There is an violence problem not a gun problem and until you and others humble yourselves and face that obvious fact violence will continue to be used by abusers, killers, and thugs. They will not let some registry, law, politician, or acedemic keep them from their goals of mayhem. None of those obstacles stop the hideous murders of the RMCP officers or the thousands of domestic victims you quote in Canada or the U.S.