Monday 26 April 2010

Gun Control: Canadian politicians are forgetting rural women

Outcry and national poll suggests Canadians, and women in particular, support gun registry

(a press release from the Coalition for Gun Control)

TORONTO, April 26, 2010 -

Citing letters from rural women’s groups across the country and just released polling results, the Coalition for Gun Control is calling on federal politicians to remember that the vocal opponents to gun control do not speak for Canadians, for rural women nor even for all gun owners.

“We hear repeatedly that gun control is an urban issue that “punishes” rural gun owners,” said Wendy Cukier, Coalition for Gun Control president. “The terrible irony is that where there are more guns, there are also higher rates of gun death and injury. Most police officers killed with guns are murdered with rifles and shotguns but suicides with firearms and domestic violence in rural communities seldom make the front page. Rural women’s groups, psychiatrists and health care professionals along with police have all documented these problems and why the registry is important to help keep guns from people who are a danger to themselves or others. Rifles and shotguns are the guns most often used in violence against women because those are the firearms most readily available.”

Citing a just released Leger and Leger poll, Cukier added: “Twice as many Canadians (59 per cent) say the registration of rifles and shotguns should be maintained compared to those who say it should be scrapped (27 per cent). In every province but Manitoba and Saskatchewan more people support the registry than oppose it. The poll also shows that women support the gun registry (66 per cent) compared to men (51 per cent). More people living with gun owners (47 per cent) support the registry than oppose it (36 per cent) and a substantial proportion of gun owners (36 per cent) actually support the registry (versus 59 per cent opposed). The opponents may be louder and better financed, but among households with guns in Canada, votes are almost evenly split. Many politicians from rural areas seem to forget that women vote too.”

Poll Highlights

1. Overall, supporters of the registry outnumber opponents by 2:1
- 59 per cent said registration is useful and should be maintained compared to 27 per cent who thought it was useless and should be scrapped and 14 per cent who said undecided or preferred not to say.

2. In every province across Canada, except Manitoba/Saskatchewan more people support the registry than oppose it.

Quebec 74 per cent to 12 per cent, Ontario 58 per cent versus 27 per cent, MB/SK 39 per cent versus 45 per cent, ALB 48 per cent versus 37 per cent, BC 57 per cent versus 31per cent

3. Women are more likely to support the registry (66 per cent) than men (51 per cent)

4. Parents also support the registration of firearms with 61 per cent for and 26 per cent against.

The omnibus poll conducted by Leger and Leger for the Coalition for Gun Control had 1506 respondents (margin of error ± 2,53%, 19 times out of 20) n December 21 to 23, 2009 and asked:

Recently, new legislation was introduced to eliminate the need to register rifles and shotguns. While licenses to own are renewed periodically, registration is a one time only procedure that occurs when a gun is purchased. A lot of money was spent setting up the system, but the current cost of registering rifles and shotguns is three million dollars a year. Some people say that registration ensures gun owners are accountable for their firearms and that the registry is an important tool used daily by police to prevent and investigate crime. Others say that registering guns unduly burdens gun owners, is of no use and should be eliminated. Which represents your position?


The concept of registering guns is useful and should be maintained; or

The concept of registering guns is useless and should be eliminated

Among the groups which have formally opposed the Government proposal to end the registration of rifles and shotguns are: the Coalition of Provincial and Territorial Advisory Councils on the Status of Women; Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan; Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters; The Grande Cache Transition House Society; Manitoba Association of Women's Shelters (Nova House Inc.); Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres; The Federation des femmes du Quebec; Association feminine d’éducation et d’action sociale, Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew Council; Manitoba Action Committee on the Status of Women; Kenora Sexual Assault Centre; as well as National Associations such as Canadian Federation of University Women; National Council of Women of Canada; YWCA Canada; The Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs; and National Association of Women and the Law.


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Thursday 15 April 2010

Of Pardons and Handguns: Mr. Harper, are you listening?

When Prime Minister Harper recently discovered, three years after the fact, that convicted pedophile Graham James had obtained a pardon, the PM was concerned enough to interrupt the Public Safety Minister on Easter Sunday to discuss changing the pardon laws.

Here’s another example of injustice that begs for Prime Ministerial activism: the case of Stephanie Hoddinott, a 20-year-old woman from Midland, Ontario. Stephanie had a 4.0 GPA in her veterinarian technician program, was smart, beautiful, and well-loved. On January 10th, she was murdered in her home by an ex-boyfriend who had legally purchased a handgun—supposedly for target-shooting. Says her mother, Brenda Passa, “Stephanie wasn’t just my daughter, she was my sister, and my best friend.”

The young man, Jake Ferrier, shot himself in the head almost immediately afterward, lingering several days on life support before succumbing.

In a letter to Mr. Harper, Ms. Passa wonders why we permit so many guns in our society since we no longer hunt for food. She can’t understand why, in her province, an 18-year-old isn’t considered mature enough to legally buy a case of beer, but IS permitted to own a handgun. Just one pull of the trigger separates the law abiding citizen from the law breaking criminal, she says, pointing out our handgun restrictions date from 1930. Times have changed: “Being 18 in 1930 is not like being 18 in 2010. Children live with their parents longer; they are younger emotionally and need time to develop before dangerous weapons” are made available.

She wants the Prime Minister to change the age limits for gun ownership, and she wants target shooters to have their weapons confined to shooting ranges.

“I hope no one ever has to endure what I went through,” she says. On January 10th, Jake started texting Stephanie repeatedly (he had texted her 40 times the day before). She didn’t respond; he came to their house. Ms. Passa met him at the door to say Stephanie wouldn’t see him. He said, “Not even for two minutes?” and Ms. Passa told him, “No, not even for two minutes, Jake. I’m sorry, I can’t make her.” She shut the door.

“I liked him,” Ms. Passa says. She feels nobody who knew him would have predicted what happened next, insisting there had been no warning signs. But he did lie on the Possession and Acquisition License (PAL), the form that's completed and (supposedly) assessed before a person is permitted to buy a gun. Ms. Passa says the PAL asks several significant questions. “Guess what?” she says, “the murderer lied on his application.” Jake Ferrier’s parents were in the midst of a divorce, and he had also recently broken up with Stephanie, facts the form asked for but Jake declined to note. “People are lying on these forms,” she says.

Ms. Passa went to her daughter’s room—Stephanie was packing for Toronto where she’d just started working at U of T. Her long-term plan was to attend vet school. Ms. Passa asked if Jake had made any threats. Stephanie said the problem was only that he was texting her incessantly. They finally decided Ms. Passa would call the young man’s mother to discuss the situation. Ms. Passa went to shower first. While in the shower, she heard two loud bangs.

By the time she threw on her pyjamas and ran to her daughter’s room, Stephanie was face down on the bed and Ms. Passa’s boyfriend was speaking with 911. She kept calling Stephanie’s name: no answer. Turning the girl over revealed she’d been shot in the head. The 911 technician told Ms. Passa to start CPR. “I blew in her mouth--blood was coming out of her neck and the top of her head. My daughter died in my arms, to the sound of my screaming." The 911 crew arrived to find her covered in her daughter’s blood.

Ms. Passa is clearly devastated. She has nightmares, she cries everyday. She says she herself would legally be permitted to purchase a handgun immediately, asking, “Do you think I am in any state of mind to own a handgun?”

Ms. Pass intends to do everything in her power to toughen the gun laws. She is convinced keeping guns at shooting ranges would be workable and effective. “Fighting this is the only thing keeping my will to live, that's the only thing I have left now. Stephanie is not dying for nothing.”

Prime Minister, Ms. Passa wants to know, can you help? Or does your concern—your compassion--extend only to possible problems with the pardon system?

A Facebook page set up by Stephanie’s cousin Tyler Hoddinott, “RIP Stephanie Hoddinott,” has over 4000 members. And counting.

(This article, originally published in The Toronto Star under the title, "Woman's murder exposes need to raise age for gun ownership," was named a Finalist for the Short Article Award Writing Award from the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Winner to be announced June 18, 2011. See the press release HERE.)